Do you have a special relationship with someone that is expressed in the name they call you? Let me give you an example. My dad is called by many different names. His name is Dr. Lamont Jacobs. Most call him Lamont, some call him “Doc,” and a few call him “Jake” (like his wife). But my grandpa had a special name for him—my grandpa called him “slammer” (apparently in reference to how he hit a golf ball).
There was this special feeling, a unique connectedness, a deeper intimacy when my grandpa called him “slammer.” It’s like when you have a best friend that has a nick name for you that only the two of you could really understand.
But we all have another name–that name that our parents call us which informs us immediately that we are in trouble. Strangely, that name for me was “Sara” (I don’t know why because that is neither my first nor middle name). It often is just your full name. Often you know you’re in trouble when your first name is followed by your middle name.
Biblically speaking, names are very important. They often told of origin and character. I can imagine how special “Simon son of John” felt when Jesus gave him a special name-Peter. I wonder how many people called him Peter. Did his parents still call him Simon? Did his brother Andrew call him Simon or Peter?
For the most part, after we see Jesus pronounce in John 1:42 “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter)” we see Jesus refer to Peter as Peter. However, there are a few times that Jesus refers to Peter by his old name.
One of those times is in John 21 when, after Jesus had died and been resurrected, Peter and some other disciples had gone back to fishing. They were out fishing and had caught nothing when Jesus appears to them on the shore. Now at this time they don’t realize it is Jesus. Jesus tells them to cast the net on the right side of the boat. When they do this and the net starts to break because of the number of big fish, John (not Peter, but John) recognizes that the man on shore is Jesus. John is the first to recognize and acknowledge Christ, but Peter is the first to act. In Peter’s great impulsive nature, he dives into the water and swims to Jesus.
The embrace must have been sweet.
However, that joy must have quickly turned to grief as Jesus addresses Peter not at Peter but as “Simon son of John.” Don’t miss this. Peter would have recognized right away that something was wrong. Jesus was not using the affectionate “Peter” but was using his old name. Peter’s joy must have turned to sorrow as he knew Jesus was saying “Simon son of John you are acting in your old nature. You are being who you use to be and not living in the New Life that I came to give.”
Jesus goes on to ask “Simon son of John, do you love me?” The word for love that Jesus uses here is “Agape.” Jesus was asking Peter “Do you love me unconditionally and selflessly? Do you love me as the Old Testament says you should with all your heart, soul, and strength?”
Peter could not answer with affirmation. Instead Peter, perhaps for the first time in his life, is honest. Peter says Lord I love you, but the word for love he uses is Phileo. Basically Peter was saying “Jesus, I can’t say I Love (Agape) you, but I am fond of you; or Jesus I like you.”
This exchange happens again with Jesus still referring to Peter as “Simon son of John.”
Then the 3rd time Jesus changes his word for love. Instead of using Agape as He did the first two times, Jesus “lowers” his form of love to that of the response of Peter. Jesus asks Peter the 3rdtime “Simon son of John, are you fond of me, or do you like me?”
Scripture says Peter was grieved that Jesus asked him a third time. I use to think Peter was grieved because Jesus asked him the same question for a third time. I now believe Peter was grieved because Jesus lowered his verb for love from Agape to Phileo. For the first time Peter was recognizing that his love for Jesus was not what he claimed it to be. For the first time Peter was honest with himself and honest with the LORD.
God cannot use us until we get honest with ourselves and honest with HIM. We tend to play these games of speaking greater love and commitment than we are actually willing to live up to… or at least I know I do. Unfortunately, if I’m honest, I live out the words of Isaiah 29:13 “These people come near to me with their mouths and they honor me with their lips but their hearts (our actions) are far from me.”
I hate to think that my heart is “far from God,” but I do know that my words declare a much stronger devotion than my actions. When I worship the LORD claiming I am fully abandoned to Him but then turn around and use my time and money and energy selfishly I am deceiving myself.
“We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says ‘I know Him, but does not do what He commands IS A LIAR, and the truth is not in him.” 1 John 2:3 How often do my actions prove that I am a liar?
Nevertheless, when we chose to get honest with ourselves and with the LORD, the LORD can transform our lives.
I look at Peter’s story and I have hope. First, Jesus will come to us as we are. He does not wait till we have our act all together before He plans a special meal with us. He doesn’t wait till we have it all together to teach us. Jesus is willing to “stoop down” and meet us where we are… it’s the only way He can lead us to where we are going with Him.
The second hope I have is in Peter’s actions on the boat before this verbal exchange. I think Peter was a little more than just “fond of” Jesus. One does not dive out of a boat to swim to shore to meet someone we are “just fond of.” I believe Peter had a love for the LORD beyond what he himself understood… and his actions proved it.
Sometimes our words outdo our actions and sometimes our actions outdo our words. Either way, Jesus loves us, meets with us, teaches us, and prepares us for His glory.
Eve Center Director