When Simon the fisherman became a disciple of Jesus, he got a new name: Petros, which in Greek is “Rock.” A fellow pastor told me once that they thought Gospel writers used Peter’s name as a hint how he’ll be acting. If he’s “Peter” in the story, he will be acting faithfully and boldly, like the Rock on which Jesus builds the church (as in Matthew 14:28, when he asks to walk on water). But if it’s “Simon,” he’ll be the doubtful, faltering fisherman (as in Mark 14:37, when he falls asleep). And if you see “Simon Peter,” it could go either way (like in Matthew 16:16ff when he proclaims Jesus is the Messiah, then tries to tell Jesus that Messiahs don’t die).

I wondered if my friend was right, so I looked up the usage of these names. What I saw was that Jesus almost invariably called this first disciple “Peter,” whether he was behaving badly or with honor. It’s just that one time in the garden (Matthew 16:16) that Jesus calls him “Simon.” I was glad I looked because I found something wonderful: the reassurance that Jesus called Peter by his new name on good days and bad ones. That’s a deeply hopeful truth.

Jesus always sees the best in us, even when we are at our worst. Let that truth lift your heads and hearts. You are loved and chosen, precious to our Savior. We all mess up. But Jesus looks at us with love and calls us by our new names, on our good days and our bad ones.

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