I remember the day I first heard about Jesus—it was like yesterday. Andrew rushed up to me saying, “We have found the Messiah!” (John 1:41). Wow! Incredible!
Now if Jesus was truly going to drive out the Roman oppressors and sit on King David’s throne in Jerusalem as it was centuries ago, he would indeed be our new national champion! A political deliverer! We started following him immediately; we couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do!
Frankly, some things Jesus said weren’t easy to understand, such as, “You will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). That reminded us of statements the prophets used to make, which though clearly energizing, could be hard to figure out too. Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament proclaimed, “The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (Mal 4:2).
The most shocking thing Jesus said that day was how he addressed me: “Your name is Simon, and your father is called John. But from this day forward you will be known as Peter, the rock” (John 1:42— Voice translation). I was startled, yet intrigued. Was Jesus singling me out for something? Why rock? Might it be related to the metaphor that God is a rock? (Deut 32:4; 1 Sam 2:2; Ps 18:2; etc.). And Jesus was as well? (1 Cor 10:4).
Not only were there many surprising things Jesus said in his years here on earth, his going without food for forty days and being tempted by the devil was especially stunning. Apparently it was a test to see if he would obey his Father—as well as do what was best for us—rather than be focused on his own personal needs and desires.
Speaking of tests, Jesus also tested us disciples to see if we were fully grasping what was involved in being his followers. The expectations that we would be persecuted and that discipleship could cost us much were especially ominous (Luke 14:25-33). It became increasingly clear that the path for following Jesus was going to be narrow (Matt 7:13-14).
We were fortunate to have many significant conversations with Jesus, the most momentous for me personally being after his crucifixion and resurrection. It was on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Incredibly, he had fixed breakfast for us: grilled fish and bread.
After we had eaten, Jesus spoke directly with me. It was only about ten days after I had denied knowing him. That flunk of the test of discipleship made me wonder if whatever Jesus had singled me out for, when he gave me the name Rock, was doomed.
Jesus simply asked, “Do you love me?” Hmmm: I had denied him three times, and now he was asking me three times if I loved him. I sensed that if I had learned my lesson and truly love him, he would forgive me. I decided right then and there that I wasn’t going to fail the test this time!
I responded, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Shockingly Jesus said, “Feed my lambs; take care of my sheep.” I didn’t understand yet that in a couple of days Jesus would be leaving this earth. But once he ascended back into heaven, it seemed clear that he was empowering me for something special. I was just a Galilean fisherman, the guy who had denied the Lord of the universe, but here I was, supposed to be both Rock and Shepherd. Incredible!
But there was one more thing on Jesus’ mind. He mentioned that when I get older I will have to stretch out my hands, that someone will lead me where I don’t want to go. Only more recently have I come to realize what he was getting at. Following Jesus may well include being led where no one wants to go, even dying with arms outstretched. As Jesus had made clear earlier, if we’re not willing to carry crosses ourselves, we cannot be disciples (Luke 14:27).
Life Application Questions
- What should we learn from Peter and what he learned from Jesus? See, for example, 1 Peter 1:18-21; 2:21-25; 3:17-18; 4:12-16.
- Peter wrote, “like living stones we are being built into a spiritual house” (1 Pet 2:5). In other words, Peter wasn’t the only rock. We’re stones too! What might that mean for us?
- Will we pass the test of discipleship?