It's no secret that I enjoy reading Scripture, but what truly puts a daisy in my bonnet is running across small phrases typically ignored and getting a sense of, "Did you read that?" The Holy Spirit tickles my spirit, enticing me to "read that again. Did you catch it?"
One such phrase came to me a few months ago and has remained at the forefront of my mind ever since. In Galatians 1, verse 18, Paul writes: Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter....
What a wonder, I thought. Getting acquainted with Peter, a man so like many of us. Peter, the one we are all so quick to judge and yet relate to. What might we learn if we, like Paul, spent time just "getting to know him."
Face to Face At Last
It must have been awkward.
Here was Paul, one time persecutor and assassin of the Christian, a man now transformed by a single experience on the road to Damascus. A man now known as a Christ-declaring, church building rabbi.
And there was Peter, the one-time guttural impetuous fisherman. A man transformed by three and a half years of walking beside the Messiah and of a single powerful moment with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. A man who would be later hailed the "first pope," the first "preacher" of the Christian faith.
Two spiritual giants-neither knowing just how wide their popularity and influence would be - meeting face to face for the first time. Peter may have wondered, "Is it really so? Has he really changed?" Paul may have prayed, "Father, let them recognize the newness of my heart."
When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. - Acts 9:26
Plenty of time had passed since Paul's conversion. He'd done great things for the church, had preached to both the Jews and the Gentiles, drawing them to the Lord Jesus, and had been persecuted in the same manner which he had persecuted. Three years passed. Three years, Paul reports, of being in Arabia and then returning to Damascus. Now it was time, time to get to know the man called Peter.
Getting To Know You
What is one of the first things one does when they meet a person? Either learn or repeat their name.
The Scriptures don't tell us how Peter and Paul came together. Paul states the only other apostle he saw while in Jerusalem during this fifteen day period was the Lord's brother, James. Perhaps he went to him and said, "Can you take me to Peter?" Or, perhaps he saw another one of the followers of the Faith. "Where is Peter staying?" he might have asked. Or, perhaps, he'd heard through the grapevine where Peter spent his time and boldly walked in, just as someone called out, "Hey, Peter...Paul's here!"
Either way (or another way), Peter and Paul came together...and stated their names.
What's in a name? Shakespeare wrote in his play "Romeo & Juliet" (Act 2, Scene 2). In biblical days, names were everything. What a man was called was tantamount to what, in his father's eyes, he would become.
Take Abram, for example. So named by his earthly father, his name means "exalted father." When God made covenant with Abram, he (as his Heavenly Father) renamed him Abraham, which means "father of many." (Genesis 12)
When a boy-child was born to David and Bathsheba they named him Solomon, meaning "peaceful." But, the Lord renamed him Jedidiah, meaning "loved by the Lord." (2 Samuel 12)
Jesus was given His name according to its meaning. In the Hebrew version of the Bible, it reads:
"You shall call his name Yeshua, for it is he who shall save his people from their sins." - Matthew 1:21.
Yeshua - the name which we know best in Greek, Jesus-means "the Lord saves."
When Yeshua (Jesus) began his ministry, He drew to Him twelve men who would be known as The Twelve Disciples. One such man was Peter.
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. - Matthew 4:18
Peter was known throughout his childhood and early adult years as Simon, which means "hearer." How fitting for this fisherman from Galilee who, having "heard" about Jesus from his brother Andrew and then "heard" the voice of the Lord saying, "Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men," then did so.
According to John's gospel, when Jesus and Peter were introduced, the Lord immediately gave a name change.
"You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter). - John 1:42. (The name John is Jonas/Jonah in Hebrew)
Later, as Peter and the other disciples walked with Jesus, the Lord posed a very important question. "Who do the people say the Son of Man is?"
The disciples answered Him, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah; and still others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
Then Jesus asked, "But what about you? Who do you say I am?"
It was the fisherman who answered. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah...and I tell you that you are Peter (Cephas), and on this rock I will build my church and the kingdom of Hades will not prevail against it." (Matthew 16)
Cephas, pronounced kay-fas' means "rock" or "stone." Jesus was not so much telling Simon what he currently was...but what, by God's power, he would become.
Paul, introduced in Scripture as Saul, was both a Jew and a Roman citizen, thanks to his father. How his father became a Roman citizen is not known, but Paul found it necessary to use this right on occasion.
Saul is the Jewish version of his name while Paul is the Roman. While "Saul" means asked of God, desired, "Paul" means little, which hold irony at best.
Acts 13:9 reads: Saul, who was also called Paul...
From this point on, Saul is referred to by his Roman name. Perhaps this enabled him to preach at a greater success rate to the Gentiles or perhaps it was for another reason. At any rate, Paul he became known. "Asked of God," he, like Peter, did much for the Lord.
Questions for Personal or Group Study
1. What does your name mean? (If you do not know, type in "meanings of names" into a search engine. You're sure to find a host of websites to answer your question.)
2. How do you live up to that name?
3. Why did Jesus change Simon's name to Peter/Cephas? What do you think He meant when He said, "Upon this rock I will build my church"?
4. Why do you think it was easier for Saul/Paul to minister to the Gentiles using the latter name?
5. Jesus saw what "would be" in Simon Peter. What do you believe Jesus sees in you?
Getting Acquainted with Peter will continue...
Award-winning national speaker, Eva Marie Everson's work includes Intimate Moments with God and Intimate Encounters with God (Cook). She is the author of Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows and Shadow of Light. (Barbour Fiction) She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at www.EvaMarieEverson.com