By Jeff Thompson (Grace Community Church)
During our mission trip in Haiti in March 2016, I talked with a rather taciturn patient about his life. He told me he was a fisherman. I asked about what kind of fishing he does. I assumed he dove for fish, but he said he went out in a boat and cast nets. We talked about my life a little bit and then I started asking him about church. He said he believed in God and all that, but he couldn’t go to church. I asked why. He said he did not have the proper clothing. This is a common excuse in Haiti for not attending church. I brought in one of the Haitian pastors, Pastor Yves, and explained to Yves the situation. They talked for a while and the fisherman kept nodding yes. Doctor Chris came, checked him out, and went to get medications. While Chris was gone, I asked the patient if I could read a story about fishing from the Bible to him. He said yes. I read the following passage.
“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.”
After I was done reading, I said that Peter worked all night in a fishing boat. When Peter found out that it was Jesus on the shore, he threw on his outer garment and jumped into the water. He did not wash up; he did not dress up; and he did not even dry-off. He just wanted to see and worship Jesus. I told the patient that we should go to church with the same attitude: we should just want to see and worship Jesus through the body of Christ, the church. The fisherman said nothing, but nodded yes.
When the doctor came back, he gave the fisherman his medication and explained the dosage. The patient held onto the little bag of pills and asked how much were the pills. Chris said they were free. We could tell the man was a little surprised and he sat quietly pondering the free gift. At the end of the conversation, I asked if I could pray with him and if he had any prayer requests. He said he wanted to feel better and paused for a second. He then said quietly that he would like to make sure the Spirit of Christ would never leave his heart. I smiled and said I could help with that. I talked him through repentance, forgiveness, and asking Christ into his heart. I then prayed in English, the translator translated, and the fisherman repeated my prayer in Creole. I found Pastor Yves and told him that we had a new brother in Christ.
In reflecting on this story an idea occurred to me that we all do the same thing. We feel like we need to clean up either physically or morally before we worship Jesus; however, Christ is always willing to fellowship with us, both believer and non-believer in whatever state were are in. Physically, Peter was a sweaty and smelly mess because he worked all night in a fishing boat. This “uncleanness” did not keep him from running through the water to Jesus. Spiritually, Peter was also a mess. Just a few days before, Peter denied even knowing Jesus three times, but Jesus sought Peter out and invited him to breakfast. No matter what state we are in, Jesus welcomes us. It matters not what clothes we wear or what spiritual state we are in, Jesus calls us to himself.
We read in Luke that Christ stated: “I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners.” Luke 5:32
We read in Matthew, Jesus calls the heavy-laden: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
In Revelation, Jesus calls a backsliding church to fellowship with himself: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20
Jesus calls the dead to come to him (He calls the spiritually dead now and he will call the physically dead in the future). “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” John 5:25
For both believer and non-believer, our Lord wants us to turn to him and run to him like Peter did. Jesus does not require us to clean up physically or spiritually before we turn to him. We can’t clean ourselves up. Christ died on the cross for our sins because we can’t clean ourselves up. We need to let him clean us through his Spirit living inside us. Christ is calling us to the foot of the cross where we are to lay aside our pride, confess our sin and worship him.