One evening, Jesus needed time alone to pray to His Father. He told the disciples to take a boat across the Sea of Galilee. He would meet them on the other side. During the night, a storm came up. The men in the oat were filled with fear, so Jesus left his quiet place and walked across the waves to them.
Peter stepped out of the boat and walked toward Jesus on top of the waves. But when Peter looked at the storm instead of Jesus, he began to sink. Jesus reached out and helped his disciple back into the boat.
Peter comes from the Greek word Petros, meaning "rock or stone." Jesus Christ gave him this name. However, it was the faith God gave Peter that Jesus used as a foundation for the early church. (Matthew 16:13-20) The Aramaic word for Peter's name is Kepha, or Cephas as it is known in most texts. Peter's original name was Simon Bar-jona, or son (bar) of Jonah (John, his father). In his exposition commentary of Peter's first epistle, Warren Wiersbe turns an interesting perspective on Peter's names:
"Perhaps the two names suggest a Christian's two natures: an older nature (Simon) that is prone to fail, and a new nature (Peter) that can give victory. As Simon, he was only another human piece of clay; but Jesus Christ made a rock out of him!"
Today, Peter's name perhaps would translate to Simon Johnson or Simon Stone. Often, he was like so many of us in personality and temperament and was the common "every man" those names seem to identify. He was impetuous (impulsive), brash, outspoken, loud, self-confident, even arrogant.
Peter was a super-fisherman, one of the best on the Sea of Galilee. He gathered fish and mended nets better than most and was successful enough that he actually had two homes, one in his native Bethsaida, another in Capernaum. Success in his beloved work, and the stature Simon enjoyed physically and occupationally, likely fostered the self-sufficiency and fire he exhibited.
But God used these very traits to establish Peter as a leader among the disciples. Many times he spoke for them, asking and saying what others would only think. He was quick to proclaim Jesus' deity and eventually was the quickest to deny Him.
Jesus included Peter in many of the personal, even intimate events of His ministry. In the Scriptures we find that Peter was present at the transfiguration and when Christ brought Jairus' daughter back from the dead.
When Jesus walked on water, it was Peter's impetuousness that motivated him to get out of the boat and join the Lord. Why would Jesus pick such a difficult man as one of His foremost disciples? Clearly, it is because Jesus would transform Peter's traits into powerful tools for His ministry.
Peter was a man mighty in spirit because of the traits Christ so lovingly harnessed to become tools for His church and kingdom. He was the first disciple to see the resurrected Christ. He led the effort to fill the discipleship vacancy created by Judas Iscariot. It was a forgiven Peter who preached boldly on the day of Pentecost.
Of all the powerful images we have of Peter's life, two scenes stand out. The first is Peter's three denials of Christ. The second is Jesus' restoration of His grieving disciple, forgiving him and then commissioning him for ministry. (John 21)
One lesson we learn from Peter is that repentance needs to be immediate, decisive, and sincere. Christ showed Peter that without Him we are little more than bluster. We can clamor and rattle our way through life, but when the dust settles we are the dirtier. We can throw off the old, common man and put on the new, uncommon one, knowing only Jesus has the ability to cleanse and restore us.
Also, remember that many of the major events of Peter's association with Christ occur on or near the Sea of Galilee, which had provided sustenance for the fisherman's entire life. The reason? Jesus meets us right where we are in our lives. Peter was at home on the Sea of Galilee. This is where Jesus found him, and this is where Jesus called him to be a minister of His hope, love, and forgiveness.
We all have a little bit of Simon Bar-jona living within us. At times we, too, can display some of his unfavorable traits. But we can learn from Peter. Perhaps his most compelling characteristic wasn't impulsiveness or outspokenness but his willingness to change and become a person mightily used of God.
To follow Jesus on earth, Peter left the fishing nets he loved. To follow Jesus for eternity, he buried the agony of past sin and yielded to Jesus' restoring love. (John 21) Jesus does not desire to condemn your heart; (Romans 8:1) He desires to transform it. What's in a name? Today it isn't so important what we are calledjust that we hear and obey when God calls us.