John 1:40-42 (NIV): Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
Andrew’s actions are typical of people all over the world, all through the ages as well as today. When they have had a life-changing encounter with Jesus, the first thing that they want to do is to share it with someone they care about: “We have found the Messiah!”
And the enthusiasm of these converts is infectious. Notice that when this message was brought to Simon by his brother there was no pushback from him, no resistance. Andrew was so clearly and so profoundly affected by his encounter with Jesus that Simon’s curiosity was piqued. He wanted to meet this person who had had such an impact on his brother.
When Simon met Jesus, one of the first things that Jesus did was to rename him. Jesus didn’t do this with everyone He met, or even with all of His disciples. But naming something (or even someone) symbolizes authority over them, even ownership, as when Adam was given the privilege of naming the animals in Genesis 2:19-20, as a symbol of his God-given authority over them. By placing a new name on Simon son of John, Jesus was putting dibs on him, staking him out as His own territory. Even though it would be a while before Simon left his fishing nets and became a full-time follower of Jesus, His claim on his life had already been staked.
In renaming Simon “Peter,” “Rock,” Jesus was looking past who and what Simon currently was, to what he would become. Simon could be rash and opinionated, but he was also cautious, pulling back from obvious danger. But Jesus could see past his current character, past his three-fold denial of Jesus in His time of greatest trial, all the way to what the Holy Spirit would make of him on the day of Pentecost. From that moment forward, when the Holy Spirit would fill him to overflowing, Simon would begin to actually live as Peter, the Rock, whose faith in Jesus could not be shaken; whose testimony about Jesus could not be silenced, even by suffering, or the threat of immanent death.
Father, I am struck by parallels between my story and that of Peter. When I was 9 years old, you put your claim on me at camp. I pulled back from your initial call on my life. Unlike Peter, it wasn’t just a short time until I left all to follow you. It took me years to finally respond. It wasn’t until I was 28 years old that I finally fell at Your feet, crying out for Your mercy, receiving Your salvation, and the transformation of my whole life. And, in the process of that transformation, You made me into what You had shown me that I would become all of those years before. Thank You, Lord, that You kept after me until I came; that You continued to work in my life until You finally orchestrated the life-changing encounter, when I heard You call out, “Follow me,” acknowledging that initial claim on my life, and making it real. Amen.