I, Peter, am an Apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four winds.” — 1 Peter 1:1 (The Message)
Two of my closest friends during the last half of my senior year in high school were Jack Barnett and Eddy Fears. We did everything together. We played sports together, took trips together and worked our first summer jobs after graduation together at the same beach resort in Ocean City, Maryland. Not ready for college and wanting to see the world, we all enlisted in the military at the same time. That soon split us up but after our enlistment was over, we all came back to the same place and went to college together.
Early in our relationship, as young people often do, we gave each other new names, which we used with each other more than our real names. I suppose they were intended to reflect something that we saw in each other that maybe others didn’t. Jack was called “Dutch.” He was big and broad shouldered and looked like he could have come from Holland. He was a great basketball player. Eddy was know as, “Flash.” He was short, lean and a track star. They called me, “Duke”—and to this day I don’t know why—but I liked it. It gave me a sense of royalty and leadership. I thought it was pretty cool!
Such was the case in the Bible with a young man named Simon. He was known by everyone in his community as simply, “Simon, the son of John.” But Jesus saw something in him that no one else did and changed his name to Petros, which means “rock,” and that’s just what he proved to be. “Simon the Rock.” We know him today as, “Peter the Apostle.”
Some Bible teachers take a little liberty in poking fun at Peter. He’s often chided for denying Christ three times (Matthew 26:34), as if they never have done that. They chuckle from the pulpit at Peter becoming afraid when he walked out too far on the water at our Lord’s bidding (Matthew 14:29), as if any one of them would have even gotten out of the boat. And horrors at Peter’s impetuous and aggressive behavior in cutting off the ear of Malchus with a sword, while attempting to protect our Lord in the garden of Gethsemane as soldiers came to arrest Him (John 18:10). And of course, the “Rock” must have been big and clumsy, having been outrun by John on the way to the tomb of the resurrection (John 20:3-4).
Yes, those episodes were all true of Peter but I believe he will be remembered most of all by one event that we will never forget. It is one of the core tenants of the Christian faith. It took place on the day that Jesus asked him the most important question of Peter’s life, “Who do you say I am?” He quickly replied with these unforgettable words in Matthew 16:16:
“YOU ARE THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD”
Simon Peter—the “Rock.” What a great new name. What a great man of God. What an Apostle. And the Lord is going to change our names, too (Revelation 2:17)! What would you hope yours to be? Maranatha!