Jesus was first introduced to Simon the son of Jonas by Simon’s brother Andrew. Andrew had been a follower of John the Baptist.
Simon, a fisherman, was not yet known as Simon Peter. When Jesus first met Simon, he told him that from then on, he would be known as Cephas, Aramaic for Petra in Greek or Peter in English. The name meant Rock.
The Gospel writers tell us that Jesus had a unique ability to know about a person at first introduction.
So, was Simon’s new nickname chosen because of this special ability of Jesus?
Based on what we learn later from stories about Simon Peter, we might question why Jesus would have so quickly decided to call him Rock.
Peter seems to have been impetuous and volatile. Maybe the nickname was partly in jest because in many ways Peter’s personality was not rock like, unless it was one you were going to throw.
Maybe Jesus saw Peter as he was to become in the end.
Matthew 14:23-33 NIV Text
23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,
24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.
26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
28"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
29"Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.
33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
Matthew 14 shows us a little of the impetuous character of Peter. The disciples had just spent all day in a remote area with Jesus as he taught a huge crowd of people. They were tired and hungry!
Somehow Jesus had taken a few loaves and small fish and miraculously fed everyone. There were twelve baskets of food left over. Everyone’s hunger was satisfied, and Jesus dismissed the crowd, put the disciples in a boat and went off by himself for some quiet time and prayer.
Teaching such a large crowd all day in the hot sun would have been exhausting for any man. It is interesting to me how Jesus shows us that prayer time can be rejuvenating. He went up onto the mountain to pray.
The disciples, also exhausted after being in the hot sun all day, hungry, and participating in the miraculous feeding, did not get their rest so easily.
Their trip home in the boat did not go smoothly! They rowed all night but made little progress toward their destination.
According to Mark 6:45 Jesus could see how the disciples were struggling against the wind on the water from his mountaintop prayer retreat. One might say Jesus was watching and praying. Did Jesus pray with his eyes shut?
About 3:00 o’clock in the morning (the fourth watch of the night), Jesus is rested and decides to go bring some relief to his disciples struggling against the wind on the water. He walks to them on the water but makes like he is going to walk right past them.
The disciples, worn out from rowing against the wind all night, see Jesus passing by in the darkness and think they are seeing a ghost. They are terrified and scream in fear!
Jesus calms their fear by calling out to them to let them know it is him. According to Matthew, impetuous Simon Peter responds with, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."
Jesus says, “Come!”
Peter climbs out of the boat and starts walking on the water toward Jesus.
This worked while he kept his eyes on Jesus, but when he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the wind and the waves he began to sink like his nickname, Rock!
Jesus reached out to save him and helped him back in the boat. The wind ceased and they easily resumed their journey across the lake without further incident.
All the disciples witnessed the wonderful powers of Jesus that day and that night. But for Peter it was especially memorable. Jesus had rescued Peter from his own impetuousness. Peter's experience reflects the words of the song
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.”
John 6:61-69 Good News Bible Text
61 Without being told, Jesus knew that they were grumbling about this, so he said to them, "Does this make you want to give up?
62Suppose, then, that you should see the Son of Man go back up to the place where he was before?
63What gives life is God's Spirit; human power is of no use at all. The words I have spoken to you bring God's life-giving Spirit.
64 Yet some of you do not believe." (Jesus knew from the very beginning who were the ones that would not believe and which one would betray him.)
65 And he added, "This is the very reason I told you that no people can come to me unless the Father makes it possible for them to do so."
66 Because of this, many of Jesus' followers turned back and would not go with him anymore.
67 So he asked the twelve disciples, "And you—would you also like to leave?"
68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.
69And now we believe and know that you are the Holy One who has come from God."
Not long after the incidents of Jesus feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on the water Jesus is again talking to the crowds and the subject of food is forefront in the conversation.
Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." John 6:51.
Jesus was saying to his followers, “Eat Me!’ This did not sit well with them.
The teaching was too much for some of them, they grumbled about it and some began to leave him.
This is when Jesus asked the twelve,"And you—would you also like to leave?"
Peter, after his recent memorable experiences replies, "Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.And now we believe and know that you are the Holy One who has come from God."
Do you see how impetuous Peter’s faith is building here?
Matthew 16:13-18 NIV Text
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"
14 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
15"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
17 Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Just two chapters later in Matthew 16, Jesus travels with his disciples to the Region o Caesarea Philippi, near the headwaters of the Jordan river.
While there he asks his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?”
It is Peter who replies, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Peter was becoming more and more convinced that Jesus was special.
Matthew 16:21-23 NIV Text
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns."