How many of us were told as children “if you had been a boy your name would have been…blank” or “we were going to name you blank but your mom went to high school with a girl with that name so we took it off of our list!” The truth is that our names have a lot of power, but have you ever thought about changing yours? The Bible is littered with people who started with one name that after some life-changing interaction with God was changed to another. Abram became Abraham when the Lord promised him his descendants would be in the line of the Christ. Sarai became Sarah when the Lord promised her a child. Naomi became Mara after she lost her husband and sons and had to move back home to Bethlehem. Saul was called Paul when he went from persecuting Christians to becoming one of them. But the one name change that I want to settle on today is how Simon became Peter.
Simon’s relationship with Jesus was complicated to say the least and I think that might be why so many believers identify with him still to do this day. When Simon’s brother Andrew brought him to meet Jesus for the first time in John 1 Jesus immediately told him that he was changing his name to Peter. In Hebrew tradition the name Peter means “stone” or “rock” and for Simon (and probably his brother Andrew) this seemed like an unlikely moniker. Simon was passionate and doubtful and definitely needed to know all the facts before he acted…or sometimes overreacted. For every step forward Simon took, he took two steps back. He was the disciple Jesus chose to walk on water, but in doubt he looked down and almost drowned. He was with Jesus at the Garden but while the rest of the disciples prayed with their leader, Peter fell asleep. Simon claimed to Love Jesus, but on the night of His death he denied that he even knew him.
So why was Simon’s name changed to Peter? The man who vacillates between love and denial for the man he claims as his Lord and savior doesn’t sound exactly sound “rock solid.” But Jesus wasn’t interested in what Simon had done, He was interested in what Peter would do. And with that gift of omniscience Jesus knew that Peter was the rock He would build his church on, a preacher he would send into the most-dire situations to love on His people and share the Good News of their salvation. Easter is the season where we celebrate Jesus coming to Earth to live as a man and wipe the slate clean so that all of us Simons can become Peters. Jesus isn’t limited by the choices that we have made or will make that are less than perfect and the best part? Jesus started calling Simon Peter before he had it all figured out, in fact sometimes he is referred to as Simon Peter– one name, the name of a man in process. God is doing the same for you friend! The next time you think about what you’ve done and start calling yourself names that are less than lovely, true and uplifting remember that names have power. If God can see to the heart of a man who denies Him three times and call him His rock, imagine the empowering and wonderful name that He has been calling you!