Read John 1:35-51
The first time Simon met Jesus, he got a new name. The Rock. Jesus met him and saw the man not just for who he was, but for who He would make him into.
You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas (v42).
Simon was from Bethsaida, a fishing town. A dad named John (or Jonah, depending on what version of the Bible you read it in) and a brother named Andrew, who apparently thought the world of him. For as soon as he found Jesus and believed Him to be the Messiah, he went straightaway to find Simon and introduced the two.
That introduction led to the story of a man whose story is unequaled by any other in Scripture. The story of a man who lived by the sea, and probably smelled like fish most days. But the story of Peter, as we will see over these next few weeks, is more about the One Who gave him a new name than it is about Peter. It’s the story of what Jesus’ grace will do to a man willing to lose everything in order to gain the life that Jesus the Christ came to offer.
I wonder what Simon thought of his new name. The one Jesus gave him. Did he try it on for size the first time he heard it? My name is Cephas. Rock. Did he like rocks? I mean, surely he had encountered them at various times. Perhaps he’d mistakenly caught stones, thinking they were fish. Maybe his boat had nearly crashed into one at some point in his career. What images emerged when Jesus called him by that name? Did he realize the truth of how he would grow into it? Did the hearing of it alone give him a confidence such as he had never known? Or did he think Jesus was mistaken? Surely not I. A rock? Ha!
The Bible doesn’t tell us what he thought that day. But it has a lot to say about the truth of his new name. The truth of what Jesus called him. I believe it took Peter some time to see himself as that Rock. Some time to see himself as Jesus did. But by the time he came to the end of his life, Simon Peter left no doubt that Jesus had done a mighty work of transformation in him. Indeed, his life bore clear witness to the fact of Jesus’ transforming work in one man’s life. And it all started with a new name for the man who followed Jesus.