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Broken Before Jesus

Chan Gin Kai

Luke 5:1-11

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:6-8)

Simon Peter’s first encounter with Jesus must have been at the synagogue where Jesus preached, and Simon was convinced enough by the sermon to ask Jesus to heal his mother-in-law. Jesus went personally to his house, and healed her of her high fever (Luke 4:38-39).

Whether it was serendipity or intended (I suspect Jesus planned it), Jesus was by Lake Gennesaret, where Simon and a few other fishermen were washing their nets after fishing. When a crowd gathered to hear him preach, Jesus got into Simon’s boat and preached from it. Simon got front row seat, and heard every single word of Jesus.

Simon already had a few encounters with Jesus. He must have been convinced by the sermons, impressed by the miracles, and grateful for the healing of his mother-in-law. But this miraculous catch of fish impacted him far more than all the other encounters, “... he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’”

So what is the difference with this miracle, that it evoked such a broken and humble response from Simon? It was not so much the miracle, but what the miracle revealed to Simon. He was a professional fisherman. He had his own boat and nets. He had friends and colleagues in the fishing community. Fishing was what he did every night; it was his craft, his expertise. It was who he was.

But Simon had failed to catch anything despite working hard through the night. And along came Jesus, a carpenter and preacher who knew nothing about fishing, but showed him a miraculous catch of fish. It made Simon realise that all his expertise and experience amounts to nothing in the presence of Jesus.

We tend to find our identity through the things that we do, and define ourselves by the roles we play. We measure our worth by our success and take pride in what we are good at. We draw our confidence from our performance, perhaps as a successful CEO, or a caring nurse, or a good father, or a nurturing teacher. But none of these last because we will all stumble despite our best efforts, and sometimes through no fault of ours.

At work, I’ve drawn confidence from the contributions I’ve made to the industry and my corresponding rise in it, only to see politicking alpha males jostle with me in competitions I’m not interested in having. I’ve taken pride in the respect that industry colleagues have shown me for my expertise, only to find how quickly that goodwill can be eroded by backstabbing friends I’ve previously helped. Respect, success, reputation and appreciation are all good, but we must not base our worth on them. Everything we take pride in, or gives us a measure of success, amounts to nothing when we come before God.

Like Simon, we can be convinced, impressed, feel grateful and even be obedient to Jesus, but not be broken before him. It is only when we learn that we are nothing, and that we can only find true worth in Jesus, that we can be broken, and truly draw near to him.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

Chan Gin Kai

Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".

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