Lacking Twitter, Instagram, or other networking platforms, Andrew found his brother in person and brought him to meet Jesus. It likely would have been much less transformative had Peter just seen a picture of Jesus on Facebook – there is something about the immediacy of presence that opens us.
One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah.” He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, 'You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas' (which is translated Peter)." No social niceties – just, "Here’s what you’re going to be called from now on."
In our scriptures, people often receive new names to reflect new missional identities. Abram becomes Abraham; Sarai becomes Sarah. Jacob is renamed “Israel” – a name that the whole community takes on. In the New Testament, the Hebrew-named “Saul” takes on the more Greco-Roman “Paul” some years into his ministry among Gentiles. And here Jesus renames Simon bar Jonah “Peter,” or “Petros.”
And he does this on the strength of one look, as John tells it. It’s possible that Jesus’ renaming Simon “the Rock” is a teasing way of saying “hard-headed”; we know that Peter was stubborn. Rocks are also foundations, though, and Jesus may have been signaling the role he intended Peter to play in his new community, a role Peter maintains even into leadership in the earliest Christian communities.
What “God-name” might Jesus give you? Perhaps you already have a sense of having a spiritual name. If not, here’s an invitation to play in prayer. Ask God, “What is my name as you see me?”
What name would you give yourself? What name describes your essence? Think of animals, or flowers, or emotions, activities – “Peaceful Runner,” or “Dancing Bee.” I’m being random, but it could be fun and insightful, to give yourself a name that describes you.
And then decide whether that is a name you want. It might describe who you have been, rather than who you are becoming, or who you already are in God’s sight.
There’s an old song that goes, “I will change your name/ You shall no longer be called wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid./I will change your name./Your new name shall be confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one; faithfulness, friend of God, one who seeks my face.”
Our God-name conveys not only who we truly are, and who we are becoming, but how we are called to participate in God’s mission of healing and restoration. If you find yourself with a new name, look out! You may find yourself walking a new path of blessing and being blessed.