“Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you”
- John 21:15
Simon Peter Was Spiritually Complex
The disciple who walked to Jesus on the water was the same one who denied Jesus three times. Simon Peter (Simon son of John/Jonah, given the name Peter, Petros, or Cephas meaning “rock” by Christ) was a spiritually complex individual. He ran hard after Christ but often fell flat on his face. Can you relate? Was he always such a hot mess spiritually speaking?
"Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas.'” (which, when translated, is Peter)
- John 1:40-42.
John 21 is a turning point in Simon Peter’s life, where he transitioned from being Simon, to being Peter, the “rock.” Jesus gave Simon the name Peter, however in John 21, Jesus is still calling him Simon. In fact, most of the times that Jesus addresses Simon Peter in the Gospels, he calls him Simon.
“Jesus asked, ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘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, and on this rock I will build my church’”
- Matthew 16:17, 18
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail”
- Luke 22:31, 32
Why the Two Names?
I agree with John MacArthur. “God took [Simon] a common man with an ambivalent, impulsive, unsubmissive personality and shaped him into [Peter] a rocklike leader – the greatest preacher among the apostles and in every sense the dominant figure in the first twelve chapters of Acts, where the church was born” (John MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men). John 21 is the last time he is called Simon.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep”
- John 21:15-17
After this conversation with Jesus, he is never referred to as Simon ever again, not even as Simon Peter. Beginning in Acts, he is forevermore, Peter, the Rock!
Idolatry of the Heart
Simon struggled with idolatry of the heart. He had other loves that sometimes took precedence over his love for Christ. This is the reason Jesus asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” The passage doesn’t explain what Jesus was referring to, but Simon knew! He had other loves . . . and so do we. In fact, he received the rebuke of his life for this very thing:
Jesus attempts to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” The passage tells us that, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men’”
- Matthew 16:21-23
Peter had a passionate love for His Lord, but he also had an ever-present struggle; he was easily distracted by other loves. Peter’s other loves are ours as well. We justify them by calling them hobbies, passions, past-times, escapes, talents, gifts, priorities, even God-given desires, but if they come before God, they are idols.
“You shall have no other gods before me…. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God”
- Exodus 20:3-5a
What Were Simon’s Other Loves?
Ask God to help you do an inventory of your heart. Do any of the following loves keep you from following Christ or obeying Him?
1. The Love of Security
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him
- Matthew 4:18-22
Simon had job security in the family business, but Jesus called him out of that. He and his brother Andrew immediately left their nets and followed Jesus. After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection though, the security and familiarity of the old family business became a temptation because it was still a love.
2. The Love of Family
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me”
- Matthew 10:37-38
This cost of discipleship was expressed to Jesus’ twelve disciples, including Simon. Jesus would not have said it if they didn’t need to hear and understand it. It was a hard cross to bear. Love for Jesus had to come first or they could not be His disciples.
3. The Love of Earthly Interests
“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, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men’”
- Matthew 16:22, 23
“The things of men.” The things of this earth. Simon had an earthly perspective and focus and it presented a stumbling block both to him and to Christ! This love is, without a doubt, a stumbling block that causes disciples to desert and turn back. The example of Demas springs to mind . . . a man who deserted the Apostle Paul in his time of need because he was “in love with this present world.”
“Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica”
- 2 Timothy 4:9-10
4. The Love of Physical Needs or Self
“He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter”
- Matthew 26:37-40
Peter was often in the hot seat for his other loves, but this was all part of the disciple-making process. Jesus was pruning him, as He does for all of His disciples (John 15:1-11). How many of us tend to put our own physical needs before our need for Jesus? This is a critical issue in our world today. Christians are putting their physical “needs” and desires, such as romantic love and sex, ahead of obedience to Christ, using the excuse that what God is requiring (purity and holiness) is too difficult.
5. The Love of Self-Image & Reputation
“Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee,’ she said. But he denied it before them all. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ He denied it again, with an oath: ‘I don’t know the man!’ After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, ‘Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.’ Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’ Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly”
- Matthew 26:69-75
Again Peter proved that Jesus was not his primary love. That particular night, he cared more about his reputation than his Lord. Perhaps he was afraid of being arrested along with Jesus. Whatever the reason, he denied his Savior and best Friend three times.
6. The Love of Safety
“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit”
- Mark 13:9-11
So many of us today put safety ahead of the gospel. So many times, I have heard others say things like, “I wouldn’t go on a missions trip there. It’s not safe.” Jesus Himself let us know it is not safe to follow Him. It’s not about safety; it’s about the spread of the gospel. We very well may face persecution, and maybe even death, but do we love Him more?
7. The Love of Life
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
- Matthew 16:25-26
That morning, on the beach with Jesus, Simon was faced (three times) with the ultimate question: did he love Jesus more than all his other loves? With the help and grace of God, he made the right choice. He responded, “Yes, Lord.” The only word you can put in front of Lord is “yes,” otherwise He isn’t Lord.
Simon went on to become Peter, the rock. At the beginning of the book of Acts, he preached a sermon and 3,000 people repented and were baptized! He also went on to endure persecution, imprisonment, and even martyrdom, but He learned to love Jesus more than everything else, including his life!
Blog by Kristi Walker of CrossWay International Baptist Church.
Published on 20. April 2020 from Berlin, Germany.
Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash.