This is a talk I gave at my church’s One Word, One Day event. I thought I’d share it with y’all as well. Hope you like the written form!
It started with a name change. A holy name change.
Well, actually, it started before that, maybe we should start at the beginning, in Matthew 4:18-20. It says, “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”
Simon called Peter? Who called Simon, “Peter”? Why does the gospel writer Matthew, the ex-tax collector, make this distinction about his fellow disciple?
Simon was also known as Peter. In fact, he was probably only known by his nickname “Peter” or “Petros” to the Jewish audience in which the Gospel of Matthew is directed. Matthew is saying, “You know Peter? Well, he wasn’t always called, ‘Peter.’” But we’ll get to that later…
After Jesus called Simon, Andrew and some other guys to His ragtag gang, He healed a multitude of sick people. Jesus then preached what became known as the “Sermon on the Mount,” which includes the “Lord’s Prayer” that we say every week in church. As Jesus spoke and taught and loved and healed, Simon watched.
Simon’s own mother-in-law was healed from a fever, two demon-possessed men’s minds and bodies were freed from their oppression. When their tiny boat was tossed on an angry sea, Simon wondered, marveled really, at who Jesus was—that even the wind and waves obeyed Him. I’m sure this particularly interested the Simon the former fisherman, who was used to the wiles of the sea.
The disciples traveled on a boat when another storm happened upon them. Then they saw Jesus walking on the water! Instead of staying in the boat, Simon jumped out walked on the water with Jesus. His faith faltered and he started to drown. This won’t be the first time we see Simon Peter’s disbelief, and it won’t be the last time we see Jesus’ great mercy in saving Simon.
On dry land, Simon witnessed Jesus raise a girl from the dead and helped hand out a few dry fish and loaves of bread to over 10,000 people. Not just one, but twice.
He saw his rabbi–his teacher–questioned again and again by the Pharisees. He saw followers come and go. Along with the other disciples, Simon heard, saw, tasted, smelled, and experienced much.
So when we come to Matthew, chapter 16, and Jesus asked his disciples in verse 13, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” we know the disciples should have a good answer.
“Some say John the Baptist,” answered one. (By this time, John the Baptist had been beheaded by Herod Antipas because John made his girlfriend angry.)
“Elijah,” quipped another.
“I heard Jeremiah!” offered a third.
“Actually, any one of the prophets,” mused the fourth.
Here is where I imagine Jesus looked intently at each one of these twelve men. He asked, “But, you, who do you say that I am?”
Simon said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!”
I think Jesus smiled as he said this part, verse 18 in The Message translation, “Blessed are you, Simon! And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will [build] my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”
Peter in Greek is “Petros” which means “detached rock” or “single rock,” while “petra” which you may also hear means “bed of rock.” (Petra is also the name of an 80’s/90’s Christian rock band. I know some of you were thinking that!)
What happens to “The Rock” after this?
In the next section, Peter told Jesus the Messiah to stop teaching about His death and resurrection because it will never happen. Peter was upset that the Messiah would die, which is not part of Peter’s plan. He wanted the Messiah to redeem the Jews from Roman oppression, but we know that Jesus had a much bigger plan—to redeem all mankind.
Peter also saw more miracles, more healing, more wonders, and it all came to a climax with Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, which we celebrate as “Palm Sunday.” We know what’s coming.
We know that Jesus washed Peter’s feet and we know that Peter cut off a soldier’s ear while attempting to protect Jesus from being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Much to Peter’s chagrin, Jesus healed the soldier’s ear and still, Jesus is taken away.
There were two mock trials, and then there was Peter’s bitter betrayal—his refusal to be counted as one of Jesus’ followers, even though he spoke like a country boy with his Galilean accent and even though he was seen with Jesus. “No, I don’t know the man,” he yelled and then the rooster crowed. Scripture says Jesus looked right at Peter. I believe Jesus looked right through him.
Some “rock”! Then again you can’t exactly be the rock of the New Testament church with a dead messiah…that is, unless Jesus’ teaching about dying and coming back in three days was true.
We all know what happens, don’t we? Jesus’ resurrection and Peter’s later restoration.
Then in Acts 2, we see a new man—an emboldened Peter talked in front of thousands on the day of Pentecost, after Jesus’ ascension into Heaven. The Holy Spirit had just come upon the disciples and they preached in various language.
Peter calmed the crowd and then delivered this stunning testimony, in verses 22-24, “Fellow Israelites, listen carefully to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man thoroughly accredited by God to you—the miracles and wonders and signs that God did through him are common knowledge—this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you. And you pinned him to a cross and killed him. But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him.”
In verse 41 we learn the results of Peter’s bold teaching, “Those who accepted his [Peter’s] message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”
Simon. Petros. The Rock.
The name says it all. Jesus saw Simon’s potential, his calling and with ONE WORD—Petros—Jesus told Simon Peter who he could be, what he would become—the rock on which New Testament church was founded. A single rock testifying about Jesus, the Solid Rock.
From simple fisherman to bold preacher, it started with one word—a name given to Simon from the mouth of God.