Summary: A look at how Simon changed to Peter, the rock; how he changed from following Christ from a distance to stepping forward in His committment to Christ. A challenge on committment to all believers.
Back, Back, Way Back
Rev. Dan Mahan
“Peter was following far behind.” Luke 22:54
In Matt. 16:13-19, Jesus asked the disciples a question. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The response varied: “Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets, “ the disciples answered. Then Jesus asked the disciples a more personal question.” But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Simon jumped right in there, without hesitation. “You are the Messiah the son of the living God” he exclaimed. Jesus was pleased with Simon’s answer. “Blessed, on you, Simon,” He said. “This was revealed to you only through my Father in Heaven. “ Jesus told Simon “Now I am naming you Peter. On you I will build my church.” Peter would be the founding leader of the Church.
Peter’s name at birth was Simon Bar-Jonah, meaning Simon, son of Jonah. But on that day, Jesus gave him a new name, Peter. If you look through the Scriptures from that day forward though, you do not always find Jesus called this discple Peter. Sometimes Jesus did call him Peter. But other times, Jesus calls him Simon. Peter was sort of a nickname Jesus gave him. This nickname meant the Rock.
Simon was unstable and impulsive. Jesus often called him Simon when he was in need of disciple or correction. Have you ever called your children by their full name when you were getting after them or wanted to get their full attention? Boy, my mom and dad did! Usually, they called me Danny, their special nickname for me. But when I heard “Martin, Daniel Mahan, Jr.”, my full name, I knew I was in trouble!
Just before his arrest, Jesus and the disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew the time of his death was near. He asked the disciples to watch as he prayed. After He had prayed for awhile alone, Jesus found the disciples asleep. Again he asked them to watch, but we find that Jesus turned to Peter with a special request. “Watch and PRAY so that you might not fall into temptation.” Jesus again went away alone to pray. Did he find Peter in prayer when he returned? No. Peter once again was taking a nap. Watch what Jesus calls Peter. “SIMON, are you sleeping? Couldn’t you watch for one hour? You said you would die for me and yet you would not even spend time in prayer, Simon.”
Peter probably cringed every time Jesus called him “Simon”, just as I did when I heard my parents call me “Martin Daniel Mahan, Jr.” I am sure Peter was thinking “Please Lord, call me the Rock.” And Jesus, knowing Peter’s thoughts, probably thought “Do you not know that is my great desire for you Peter, that you be the Rock.” When Christ called him Peter, Christ was commending him or praising him for acting the way Christ expected him to act. He was praising him for acting like the Rock that Jesus knew Peter could become through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Christ knew that Peter believed in Him. Of all the disciples, it was Peter who boldly exclaimed, “You are the Messiah the son of the living God!” Peter had a desire to learn about Christ and His kingdom. We find Peter often asking questions in his desire to know more. “How often Lord should I forgive,” he asked. “What reward do we have for following you, Jesus?” Peter wanted to know and understand.
And Peter had a desire to follow Jesus. Peter wanted to be with Jesus. When all of the disciples were out in the boat on that stormy night, it was Peter who jumped up and stepped out of the boat to walk to Jesus. He was the only one to leave the boat. Sure Peter might have denied Jesus, but we find that he followed long after the other disciples except John, had abandoned Christ. No doubt, Peter loved Jesus.
But in our text today, we see that Peter followed Christ from a distance. He stood back, way back, and followed from afar. He knew the risk of getting involved. Peter knew that following Jesus any closer might be costly; it might mean a great sacrifice on his part. Peter’s commitment often was shaky. “Lord, I will die for you,” he boldy exclaimed. But soon after, we found Peter denying that he even knew Jesus. Three times, Peter denied Jesus. Peter followed Jesus from a distance. Peter did not follow Christ to the Cross.
Proud ole Simon. His desire was to be served not be a servant to others. He did not fully grasping the teachings of Jesus on servanthood, did he? . The final lesson Jesus taught Peter in commitment came after the Resurrection. Jesus was fixing breakfast on the shore for the disciples. Jesus showed Peter that He forgave him. But Jesus also reminded Peter that his commitment to Him was not what it should be. “SIMON, do you love me?” Three times Jesus asked Peter this question. “Do you really love me, Simon.” “Simon, do you truly love me?’ The last words we find Jesus speaking directly to Peter in the Scriptures are the words” You follow me!”