Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Simon Peter

Somewhere in the middle of the course of His ministry, Jesus changes the name of the Simon that we are talking about. No longer will this disciple be called Simon, but he will be called Peter ("rock"). Jesus says, "On this rock, I will build my church." And thus, the Gospel writers refer to him as Peter.

But not everyone does.

You have to pay close attention because it's so easy for us to read right past, knowing that Simon is Peter is Simon and so not thinking another thing of it. But at some very key moments, even after it's clear that Jesus intends for Simon to become Peter, the name Simon comes up once more. And these are not only after Jesus intends for Simon to become Peter, but even after the church age has come - after the resurrection of Jesus.

For example, when Jesus predicts that the disciple will deny Him three times before the rooster crows, He is speaking, as recorded in our Gospels, to Peter. It is Peter who will, and does, deny Jesus. But John tells us that when Jesus arose and appeared to the disciples on the shore, He did not speak to Peter, but to Simon. 

Simon...do you love me more than these? Simon...do you love me? Simon...do you love me?

Three times, Jesus looks into the eyes of the devastated disciple whom He has named Peter, for on this rock..., and He calls Him Simon. 

And then again in Acts 15, well into the ministry of Simon Peter who is the rock on which God will build - and is building - His church, we see his name once more. There has been a dispute about circumcision in the Gentile churches, a heated debate that has caused not only a lot of tension, but a lot of heartache. Paul and Barnabas have returned to Jerusalem, to the council of believers, to settle the matter and have come, apparently, to the disciples themselves, for many of them are present. 

Peter, we are told, stands and testifies, being himself an expert in the missions work of building the early church and having gone to both the Jews and the Gentiles and seen firsthand what God is doing among them. After he has finished speaking, James stands up and takes the floor. And the first thing he does is refer to Peter as Simon, saying, essentially, Simon is right. 

So Simon has become Peter has become Simon, who is Simon Peter. And it's not even that it is Simon Peter who cannot seem to shake off the old to become the new; it is Jesus Himself and his fellow disciples who continue to know him by both names, who continue to call him by both names, who continue to speak to him and of him by both names. 

It's not easy being Simon. Or Peter. Or whoever. 

Stay tuned....

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