Taste the Holy
Daily Reading: This morning, we’re reading Luke 5. Start there, then read this devotion that will tie in with what you’ve read.
When I was in college, I had the opportunity to go on a Fall Break trip to the Smokey Mountains with the BSU. We had a great time all around, but there was one moment that I will never forget. Early one morning, we climbed up into a fire tower on top of the mountain to watch the sun rise. We got up there just before the sun began to peak over the mountains. What we saw was breathtaking. The gentle morning sun pouring over the valley below caused it to explode into all the vibrant colors of fall. Moment by moment the scene would change ever so slightly as the beams of light danced over the top of the mountains into the valleys below. We watched the beautiful display until the sun had fully risen. It was a true moment of awe. Have you had a moment like this? A sunrise or sunset? A beautiful scene in the mountains or at the ocean? A starry night sky? Perhaps even a remarkably beautiful person? Whatever it was, it was so beautiful that it was almost terrifying.
These moments are tastes of the holy. We are tasting something that is so foreign to us, so set apart, that we cannot look away, yet we almost cannot stand it. We love the holy, yet we cannot decide if we should run towards it or run away. This is because deep without our hearts we know we are not holy. We are common. We are dust. We know we don’t stand a chance before the holy. Of course, these are tastes of God’s holiness in creation. What about when we encounter God himself? This is Simon’s experience in Luke 5. (We know Simon by the name Jesus gave him, Peter).
4 And when he had finished speaking, [Jesus] said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
– Luke 5:4–11 ESV
Peter was so struck by Jesus’ actions that he became intensely aware of his own lack of holiness. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man,” he says. Now Jesus didn’t tell Peter he was sinful. Jesus didn’t give fresh insight on the law in this moment that placed extra guilt on Peter’s conscience. He simply acted as God, and in the presence of God, humans who have eyes to see tremble. In the Old Testament, Isaiah sees God and has a similar response. He says, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Is 6:5)
Of course Jesus doesn’t depart from Peter. He doesn’t say, “You’re right, you are sinful, I have no need of you.” He also doesn’t disagree with Peter. He doesn’t say, “No, no Peter, you’re a great guy, don’t sweat the small stuff.” With the authority of one who can calm the storm with a word, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” That’s grace! Jesus is King of all and yet has made the way for us to approach him without fear. Not only that, he has taken our unholy lives and set them apart as holy. Just he sets Peter on mission, he sets us on mission.
See this pattern. We taste the holiness of God with awe, we are struck by our unholiness, we are set at peace by Jesus, and we are commissioned to God’s work as holy people. I fear we often skip those first two steps. We become used to the holy, and we fail to see how wonderful it is. We become used to our unholiness, and we fail to see how terrible it is. Jesus is the mediator between us as unholy people and a holy God. By his blood he cleanses us and sets us apart for his kingdom work. What wonderful news! We can taste the holy and not die. We can experience God without fear because of Jesus.
“I am afraid that many of us have lost our awe of God and don’t even know it. Is there evidence in your life that you are awe deficient? Cry out for eyes to see once again, for a heart ripped by awe once again. And be thankful for the grace that assures you will be heard and answered.” – Paul Tripp