17. Who am I? (John 1:40-42)
17: Who am I?
Once we find out who Jesus really is, then He begins to reveal who we really are. In a world that is increasingly pushing our right to “self identify”, we would all do well to remember that we are created by God not ourselves. He is the One who frames who we are. We can only know our true identity when we find Jesus. Our identity truly begins and ends in Him.
Simon discovered that from the moment he first met Him.
“One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).” John 1:40-42
I like this verse, because my parents called me Peter when I was born. Peter Murray (after the Scottish Pastor Murray McCheyne) Todd.
Peter in the Bible was not called Peter by His parents. He was called Peter by God.
He had started out life as Simon. Simon son of John. And he had a brother Andrew. Andrew was one of the two disciples of John the Baptist who went to follow Jesus. He must have been an earnest, devout, faithful man. His name means “manly”.
Jesus calls Simon “Cephas” which is the Aramaic word for rock. Because it is the meaning of the name that is important, not the name itself, John translates it into Greek for his readers.
“(Which means Peter)”
Peter is rock in Greek and thereafter John calls him that in his gospel. However Jesus named him in Aramaic Simon Cephas. Simon “the Rock”. That is what he would have been called by Jesus and the other disciples, not Simon “Peter”.
So a truer translation into English from the Greek, which is John’s translation from the Aramaic, would be Simon the Rock, because it is the meaning that is important not the sound of the name. Thereafter, in John’s gospel, this is the name that the Holy Spirit through John gives him, except for one conversation around a fire in the last chapter. But we will come to that at the end of this book.
John, the apostle of love, never stops calling him that name. Simon the Rock.
In the other three gospels he is introduced as “Simon (who is called Peter)” in Matthew 4:18, “Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter)” in Mark 3:16 and “Simon Peter” in Luke 5:8. Thereafter all three gospel writers refer to him as Peter. That is except one place in Matthew’s gospel. In Matthew 16:15-19, Jesus asks the disciples who do they think Jesus is. Peter replies with the clarity of heaven, that Jesus is “the Christ the Son of the living God”. Then Jesus affirms his name as Peter, the Rock. It is clear from this narrative that Jesus is not just giving him a nickname that is a bit of fun between friends. Jesus might have called him “Simon the Rock” because he was stubborn or thick headed, both of which would have applied. But Jesus explains why He is calling him “The Rock” and it was because there was something in Simon that He believed He could build on.
“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:15-19)
What had Jesus seen in Simon that He felt He could build His church on? It wasn’t some rock like commitment or loyalty. All of the gospel writers detail his betrayal after Jesus is arrested. Jesus wasn’t naming Simon something that he wasn’t.
I have watched friends be called “evangelists” (meaning the Ephesians 4 gift rather than the general call to all Christians to reach out to people who need Jesus) prophetically as people have prayed for them. Sometimes that was accurate, but on one occasion, so far, it seems that is wasn’t. You can’t make someone into an evangelist simply by calling them by that name in faith. If God has not given them that grace gift then they simply should be given another name that matches the calling God has for them.
Simon Peter became the rock for the early church, the strong, committed, loyal servant that would lead things forward from the beginning. So, in one sense, Jesus is naming him in faith for something that was to come, even though he wasn’t displaying those qualities at the time. But in the context of Matthew 16, that is not the primary reason he is called “the Rock”.
Jesus calls him “The “Rock” primarily not because of who he would become, but because of who he understood Jesus to be.
Jesus gave Peter his true identity when Peter saw Jesus’ true identity.
His new identity was totally wrapped up in his understanding of Jesus’ identity.
The Rock that Jesus was going to build on was the rock of the revelation that Simon had of who Jesus was.
In essence, Jesus was saying: “You are a blessed man Simon son of Jonah, because you get it. God has revealed to you who I really am. You now know me and because you know me, I know I can build on you. Because My Father has clearly chosen you in showing you this foundational truth about Me, then I can clearly choose you to be the foundational member of My church.”
“The Rock” was not simply a nickname reflecting Simon’s personality, it was referring to the revelation that Peter had been given.
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Someone who has that revelation is someone who Jesus can build with. Simon was the first and so he is named “The Rock” on whom everyone else is going to be built.
When it comes to leadership in the church, we cannot just look for natural talent. We must be careful not to prophetically name people something, when God has not given them that gift (although we do need to prophetically and prayerfully call out of people that which is from God in them which is lying dormant or needs developing in some way). There were probably plenty of steadfast, faithful, loyal, gifted, trained, servant hearted people in Israel that Jesus could have made into foundational building blocks for His kingdom. Jesus wasn’t primarily looking for any of those qualities. He was looking for the ones whom His Father was choosing and in particular those to whom the Father sent the Holy Spirit of revelation. If people don’t really have a deep, foundational revelation of who Jesus is, then they cannot become building blocks in the church.
In the Kingdom of God it isn’t mainly what you know, by experience or learning, it isn’t long service or even gifting and talent. It is always Who you know.
Apart from that one chapter in Matthew 16, Matthew, Mark and Luke always refer to Simon as Peter, “The Rock”.
In contrast, John always introduces him into a story as “Simon the Rock”. He thereafter often calls him just “the Rock”, but he always introduces him by his full God given title. “Simon the Rock”. He is a central figure in John’s narrative. Other than Jesus, he is the most consistently mentioned by name throughout the gospel.
It is clear John wants us to know his fellow disciple, even before getting to know John the Apostle himself, whom we only get to meet by inference: “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. It is clear John had the same heart as his namesake John the Baptist who made a ministry out of preferring Someone else. This trait, as we have said before, is right at the heart of the this fulness of life that is in Christ. It is not only “I must decrease that Christ may increase” but sometimes “I must decrease that my brother or sister in Christ may increase”.
John must have seen Simon’s failings more clearly than anyone, but of all the gospel writers, he covers them with such grace and kindness. All of the gospel writers expose Simon’s betrayal. Only John explains his restoration.
John hadn’t always been so generous hearted. It was, after all, him and his brother who wanted to be the greatest. But now, as he is looking back and writing, he is living in the fulness of life that he has found in the risen, ascended Jesus Christ and he is more than happy to sit in the background of his narrative and push Simon into the foreground. He warmly and respectfully consistently names him Simon the Rock. Because he was. A rock not built out of personality and talent but out of an unshakeable, God given revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Who was Simon? He was, in reality, whoever Jesus said He was. Jesus had brought him into being in his flesh and now He was bringing, Simon Peter, the new creation, the rock of the church into being in the Holy Spirit. Jesus was fathering into existence the fulness of who Simon was created to be.
Who am I? If am still living life my way, then I am who I am. But I will never come close to tapping the true potential of who God intended me to be.
If, however, I have surrendered my life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, then I am whoever Jesus says I am.Posted on: May 26, 2018Peter Todd