Potential September 16, 2013

In one of my favoritescenes from the life of Christ, Jesus meets Peter and says: “So you are Simonthe son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter) (Jn 1:42).Don’t overlook the tense of the verbs: “You are Simon. You shall beCephas.”

Three names: Simon,Cephas, and Peter. “Simon” was one of the most common names of that day in Palestine. “Peter,” on theother hand, wasn’t a name at all. It is the Greek word for “stone,” and Cephaswas its Aramaic equivalent. Calling him “peter” would be like calling someone“brick” or “lemon” or “sugar.” Why would we call someone by a nickname likethat? Because it pegs just who they are. That’s what Jesus was doing here—Hewas giving Simon a new identity, not just a different name.

Recall again the futuretense of Jesus’ statement: “You will be ‘stone.’” Jesus is envisioningSimon’s future life, the life that Jesus Himself will shape in him. It’sinteresting that, through the rest of the gospels, Jesus continues to call himby his old name “Simon,” not by his new nickname “Peter.”

Why? Because Simon is not yet a rock, but Jesus willmake him one. His story in the gospels shows Jesus didn’t name him “stone”because of what Simon was in himself. Preachers love to talk about Peter asthis strong and sturdy rock, but that is not a description of Simon as he is.It’s what he will become. The new name Jesus gave him was a prophetic promise.

It wasn’tuntil a few years later, deep into their relationship together, that Jesus saidto Simon, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Mt16:18). Jesus’ predictive nickname had begun to come true in Simon’s life. Nowthat Simon was becoming the rock Jesus intended him to be, He can begin usinghim to build His church. And only later, in the book of Acts, does the name“Simon” give way to the new identity “Peter, the stone.”

Here’s thelesson for us: Our potential comes from what Jesus can do with us, not fromwhat we can be in ourselves. It just might be that God sees something inyou—not some quality you have developed yourself. It’s something only He coulddo, a person only He could fashion you into. He did it with Peter. Why not withyou?