Starting Over: Jacob and Peter

by Julie Barrier

What’s In a Name?


Global positioning systems-what a boon to those of us who find ourselves directionally-challenged. We all need “GPS” assistance in our lives. Some of us are driving in circles, some are carelessly careening down life’s highway, clueless about their destination. The journey is not always about where we end up, but who we become along the way. A parent would often name a child a meaningful moniker to inspire and reflect a character quality the name described. In this final lesson of our “Greater Than” psalms series, we discover that God has destined us for greatness. Jeremiah prophesied this wonderful promise from God in Jeremiah 29:10-11:


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” NIV


God never simply sees us as we are, but who we can become. When we place our hand in His, He guides us to greatness.


From “Cheater” to “Prince”


Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah, emerged from the womb grasping the heel of his elder twin brother, Esau. Isaac named his young son “supplanter” or “sneaky cheater.” (Genesis 25:26) How would you like to spend your formative years living up to your infamous name? Jacob subsequently rose to the challenge. Jacob conspired with his mother to deceive his father Isaac and steal his elder brother’s birthright. (Genesis 25:31)

The story of intrigue between Esau and Jacob is both compelling and tragic. After escaping the wrath of Esau, Jacob continued his surreptitious behavior by cheating his father-in-law out of his prime livestock. (Genesis 30:37-41)


God saw past Jacob’s rough edges and saw the gem within. Through a series of encounters with God, Jacob became a “prince.” “Sneaky” was running away from the ire of Esau when he dreamed his legendary dream of the stairway to heaven. At that moment the angels of God were ascending and descending the stairway, and Jehovah spoke to him face to face:


“There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15 NIV


The moment of truth came for Jacob when he faced Jehovah at the ford of the Jabbok stream in Genesis 32:22-31. Jacob, paralyzed with fear about his older brother’s retribution, wrestled with the Angel of the Lord until daybreak.


“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” NIV


When Jacob met God face to face, he became “Israel,” or “prince” instead of “cheater.” Israel fathered a nation, just as God had promised. So often man looks upon the outside. God always looks upon our hearts. In Revelation 2:17, Jesus told the church at Pergamum that every believer who stood the test of faith in Him would receive a stone with a name written on it. The name was Jesus’ pet name for that person, and when we get to heaven, He will reveal that special “nickname” He has for us!


“To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” NIV


What does your name mean? Have you ever asked your parents why they gave you that name? When God looks inside your heart, what do you think He would He call you? What would you want to be named?


Have you ever looked up the names of your spouse and your children? Look up the meaning of their names on Read the opening statements of the site concerning the value of a name in the paragraph below. Has the meaning of your name impacted your life, or the life of a family member? How?


“First of all, a name is the answer to questions such as “Who am I?” and “What am I like?” Try asking a three year old boy “Who are you?” and the most likely replies to follow would be “I’m a boy” or “I’m Tom”. The importance of a name is truly enormous; after all, it helps shape a person’s life. Perhaps not as much so as gender but names allow children to psychologically be aware of themselves as individuals – an important aspect of their development. Let’s talk about baby boy names and baby girl names! Our ancestors were sure that the fate of any person, city or even country depends on its name. The same idea carries on into modern day name changing customs that follow in the footsteps of our ancestors and imply a change in fate. Such is the meaning behind a woman taking the husband’s name after marriage. The same goes for writers and actors working under aliases, or name changes given upon receiving church callings or joining secret societies.”


Simon Became Peter


Jesus saw Simon the fisherman bumbling through life with a big heart and a clumsy manner. Simon often had a case of “hoof and mouth disease.” Our first glimpse of Simon was when Jesus helped them catch a boatload of fish. (Luke 5:5)Jesus looked at two burly fishermen in the eye and simply said: “Follow me!” (Matthew 4:18) Simon and his brother Andrew immediately dropped their nets to follow this mysterious rabbi. Simon left his life’s work, his family business and his reputation at that seashore to start an adventure that would forever change the course of his life. In the gospels of Matthew and Mark, Simon appeared first on the list among the names of Jesus’ disciples. But Simon was pretty unpredictable. One minute, he was jumping out of the boat onto the stormy sea to meet Jesus as he walked upon the waves. (Matthew 14:24-31) However, when he accompanied Jesus to the triumphant moment of Christ’s transfiguration, he babbled away and God told him to shut up and listen to Jesus. (Matthew 17:1-7) Simon’s defining moment came when Christ asked the disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” The other disciples hemmed and hawed, but Simon chimed in, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. That was the moment when Simon got his new name. Jesus declared:


“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter (rock), and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:17-20 NIV


Simon took awhile to live up to his new name. Only a few short verses after Jesus called him “rock,” Christ foretold his coming crucifixion. Peter would have none of it. So Jesus said to Peter, three verses later, “Get behind me, Satan!” How could you go from “rock” to “Satan” in a matter of seconds? Well, that was mercurial Peter. Jesus had given His most unpopular speech to five thousand seekers. The entire audience walked away with the exception of twelve loyal disciples. Dejected, Jesus looked into the eyes of His posse and asked: “Will you go away too?” Peter gently answered these affirming words in John 6:68-69:


“Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” NIV


Jesus was still patiently teaching Peter even at the Last Supper. Kneeling in front of the angler turned apostle, Christ prepared to wash Peter’s feet. Peter jumped from his chair and declared that Christ should not clean his dirty toes-he should be washing his master’s feet. Jesus retorted harshly in John 13:9: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” NIV Christ knew Peter needed to learn that he must first receive from Christ before he could minister to others. Did Peter finally learn his lesson? Not yet. He fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus needed his prayers. (Matthew 26:36-48) He denied Jesus three times when his Savior was being tried and condemned, (Matthew 26:74) and he was nowhere to be found at the cross. (John 18:25) Two chapters later, the contrite disciple appeared at the empty tomb and subsequently encountered the risen Christ. (John 20:6). Only one chapter later, Peter has returned to his old career on the sea. Jesus, undaunted by Peter’s ups and downs, fried him some fish sticks for breakfast and restored him to ministry. (John 21:17-19) Jesus asked his old friend, “Peter, do you love me?”


“The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”…He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”  Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” NIV


Peter did just that. He followed Christ all the way to his death, but not before he had an earth-shaking, Spirit-filled ministry. Peter finally lived up to his name-not in his own strength, but through the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. At the end of his life, this brave apostle penned these words in 1 Peter 1:6-8:


“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. NIV


Simple Simon became powerful Peter-anointed at Pentecost, performing miracles, shepherding souls, and penning Bible books that would edify the church of God for ages to come. If God could take a Simon and see in his eyes a rock, he can transform us in the same way. We become like Christ not because we deserve it, not because we meet His expectations. We live up to our name through God’s love and grace. And one day, when we reach heaven’s glory, we will be like Him:

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV


Can you identify with Peter? Do you ever waver in your faith? List some “Simon” moments in your life: moments of faith and moments of faltering. How do Peter’s foibles give you hope that God does not ever give up on you?

What are some ways you have experienced God’s grace (His unmerited favor)? Have you ever seen His power manifested in your life? When? What were the circumstances?






How does it make you feel to know that God loves you unconditionally? If you could describe some of the Christlike characteristics you would want Jesus to develop in your life, what would they be? If you could know your “pet name” that Jesus promises you in Revelation 2, what would you want your nickname to be?






































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