While certainly, Jesus takes center stage in the Gospel stories, there is a man who always seems to be rather close at hand. He is one of the first disciples whose calling we are told of, one of the first disciples (often) to speak, the first disciple to enter the empty tomb in search of His master.
He is Simon.
The first thing we have to do when we think about Simon the disciple is to separate him from other individuals named Simon in the Gospels and in the New Testament. And there are a fairly good number of them. It seems that Simon was quite the popular name around that time.
Well, it might be easy, you say. We shall just call him Simon the Disciple. That way, we distinguish him from other Simons we might know or read about. But very quickly, this does not work, for there were two Simons among the twelve - the Simon currently in question and Simon the Zealot, with whom we should never confuse our current Simon.
There's also Simon the Leper, as we saw briefly last week. Simon the Leper is the man who hosted Jesus and a number of others at his house in Bethany near Jerusalem just days before Jesus sacrificed Himself on the Cross. It was at Simon the Leper's house that the sinful woman poured out the expensive bottle of nard as an offering/an anointing. We should not confuse this Simon with our current Simon, either.
And then when we get to the book of Acts, we see yet another Simon, the Magician. He is known for his amazing deeds and acts of wonder, and he comes seeking the gift of the Holy Spirit - not because he thinks it will be of life-giving benefit to him but because he is fairly sure it will improve his magic ten-fold, if not more. Again, we should not confuse this Simon with our current Simon (although we will look at this Simon later this week, for it is quite an interesting story and just the sort of thing that God would do).
So our first challenge when we say that we are going to look at Simon is to answer the question: which Simon? Who is he, and how do we set him apart from all the other Simons in the story?
The Simon we're talking about is impetuous. He speaks, or acts, often without thinking about it first, and this causes some very interesting ideas to come out of his mouth. For example, when witness to the Transfiguration, Simon is the one who pops off and says, "This is great! Since we're here, we can build little shelters for each of you!" It makes no sense; why would three holy spirits need shelters on a mountain, and just how long does Simon plan to be on that mountain, anyway? In the blink of an eye, what was is gone, and there is just Simon and the echo of impetuousness left.
That echo of impetuousness follows him. He just can't let things sit; he always has to answer, always has to speak. In the courtyard at the trial of Jesus, as Jesus remains silent before His accusers, Simon speaks quickly to his. "No, I don't know the man. I'm telling you I don't know Him. Would you give it up already? I do not know the guy." Unable to keep quiet, he denies the Lord three times, just as predicted.
It is Simon (we think) who cuts off the ear of the high priest's servant in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus is arrested. He's the one who draws the sword and starts swinging it, even though Jesus Himself doesn't seem all that concerned.
And when Jesus asks the disciples who they say He is, it is Simon who says, "You are the Messiah" without missing a beat. And when Jesus asks His disciples if they, too, would like to desert Him, it is Simon who quickly says, "To whom else would we go?"
It is Simon who plows into the empty grave while John merely peeks around the corner to see what might possibly be going on in there, and when the disciples are fishing in the days after the resurrection and discover that Jesus is the one on the shore calling out to them, Simon jumps into the water to swim toward Him.
Over and over and over again, this Simon we're looking at is one who speaks, and acts, quickly, without a whole lot of thought to it. He is a man driven by his passions, reckless to his heart. He is all-in, wholly devoted to what he's got going on.
And there's something endearing about him, isn't there? There's something about Simon that we deeply love, not the least of which is that we love the way that Simon loves Jesus.
But there's a lot more to this man than we often consider, a lot more woven into his story than we often read. It takes the patience to sit down and listen not for his mouth, which is so easy to hear, but for his heart, which is not unlike our own. And the way that Jesus handles Simon's heart, the way that God writes his story, is breathtakingly beautiful.