Posted on Mar 1, 2015 | 0 comments

Left Behind
by Skip Moen, D. Phil.

But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Luke 5:8 NASB

Go away – Peter’s reaction to being in the presence of a holy man is Hebraic. “Depart from me for I am a sinner.” Peter doesn’t flee. That comes later and it related to shame, not sin. On this day, Peter recognizes that God is with Yeshua in extraordinary ways and that is enough for Peter to want this man of God to leave him. Peter knows that his sin defiles the presence of YHVH and since he cannot remove his sin, he must ask someone who is very close to the holy God to leave. Peter has enough spiritual savvy to understand that he is the defiler and holiness cannot occupy the space of one who defiles.

We, on the other hand, somehow think that our sins draw us closer to the Messiah. We think that because we are sinners we need his presence all the more. We are focused on what we need, namely, forgiveness. Peter is focused on what God needs, namely, purity. Our focus is egocentric. Peter’s is God-centered. Peter’s statement is about maintaining God’s glory and honor at his own expense. We usually take just the opposite approach, that is, that God should be more than willing to sacrifice His honor and glory in order to help me deal with my dishonoring and insulting acts. Our preoccupation with ourselves prevents us from even recognizing our unworthiness before God. We have come to believe that God serves our interests, even in removing our defilement. Peter would never have agreed.

The Greek verb here is exerchomai. It is, of course, made up of the Greek words ex (ek – out from a point of origin) and erchomai (to come). Peter’s expression is ironic since the same verb is used of Yeshua’s calling of the disciples. “Come after me” is precisely the opposite of “Depart from me,” using the same Greek verb but only changing the prefix. Perhaps this is telling. The only difference between asking the Messiah to leave and following after the Messiah is the prefix we attach to the verb. That prefix is ek. It is entirely about motion or action from a point of origin. It has multiple nuances in Greek but its principle idea, movement, never changes. Movement, not destination. Origin, not end. We are either moving toward the Master or away from the Master and the direction is entirely ours to determine. We either ask God to leave or we follow after Him. The prefix only specifies our starting point, where we are right now. How it is applied is up to us.

Peter is the prefect example of someone who is quite aware of his own unholiness. At the very beginning, this causes him to implore holiness to depart. He is unworthy and he knows it only too well. Just like me. But holiness attracts and Peter cannot resist following. He knows that this Messiah has the words of life. Men who are acutely aware of their desperate sinfulness are attracted to what is good and pure. Men who are egocentric are oblivious of the wretchedness of their sins. Peter’s declaration may be yours and mine—if we realize how much our lives tarnish the reputation of YHVH. Peter’s point of origin is the dreadful awareness of his failures. That place begins his journey. Perhaps too many of us have attempted to walk with the Master without ever starting at exerchomai. Perhaps the journey of a thousand steps can’t even begin until we understand the first one.

Topical Index: ex, ek, exerchomai, come, go, depart, Luke 5:8

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