Luke 5: 1-11 | (Cross Reference: John 1:40-43)
When we find Jesus in Luke 5, He’s been baptized, He’s been tempted in the wilderness by Satan Himself, and He’s just started His public ministry by performing many healings, spiritually and physically (Luke 4). And now, in Luke 5:1, He is teaching a crowd of people on the shoreline, moments from calling His first disciples to Him.
We are going to hop into John’s account of Jesus calling the first disciples in a moment, but before we do I want to point out one thing about Luke’s account -
Simon and a few others were fishing on the shore was teaching from. They were having nearly no luck; they’d caught just about nothing out there on their own. Jesus ends up in their boat at His request, giving them the famous command to “put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” The result? According to verse 6, they caught so many fish their nets were beginning to break.
I point this out to say this: Jesus often approached ministry this way. He would meet the physical, tangible need of people, which positioned Him to address their spiritual need and be heard. They may not grasp it all in that moment, but spiritual seeds were often planted in the midst of His fulfilling physical needs. And that makes sense, doesn’t it? When someone in my life shows themselves willing to meet me in my need, I begin to see who they are in a new, different or deeper way. I think this is just how we work as people.
That is definitely how Simon responded: But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (v8) Jesus met Him where he was, in the middle of what he was trying to do, filled his need beyond what he thought possible, and Peter began to see a [very] small glimpse of who He was.
With that, let’s look at John’s account of this scene. I love John’s Gospel because it’s such a personal, intimate view of the life and ministry of Christ. And as such, in John 1, he shares a conversation between Jesus and Peter (Simon), though it’s brief, that no one else does. This is where we see Jesus show us that He is the source of our identity. In fact, it’s so brief the whole scene fits in 3 verses:
(40) One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. (41) He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. (42) Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). (v40-42)
Andrew, Simon’s brother, brings Simon to Jesus - who they’d heard about through John the Baptist’s teachings. When Jesus and Simon meet, Jesus makes just this statement we see above in verse 42.
He gives him a new name.
Two things we know…(1) Jesus doesn’t do anything for nothing. (2) Names have deep significance in Scripture. So we know there is a significant reason Jesus changes Simon’s name here.
He changes His name from Simon to Cephas (translated to Peter), which means “Rock.”
When you think of a rock, what words do you associate with it? Most of us may say things like stable, unmoving, secure, firm. Well, Peter is none of those things through the entirety of the Gospels. He is instead rather unstable, insecure, driven by his emotions. This is the guy that chops a soldier’s ear off in the Garden without thinking twice (John 18). This is the guy who denied Jesus three times after pledging his allegiance to Him forever (Luke 22).This is the guy who, even after professing faith in Christ and being told in Matthew 16 that he would become the rock of Christ’s church, would walk away from three and a half years of ministry because he’s frustrated and confused (John 21).
To take this thought further, He hasn’t even confessed faith in Christ yet at this point. He’s only just agreed to follow Jesus, probably with some uncertainty. Yet, here Jesus is changing his name to something we know he isn’t currently, and won’t become for quite some time.
From where I am sitting, nothing about what we see in Peter justifies Jesus giving him this new name.
That’s because the world - the flesh - identifies people based on what they’ve done, who they are in this moment, maybe who we think they can become based on current successes. We label people according to how they look, their financial status, job title, lifestyles, the trauma they've experienced. We determine who we are based on the same. We do this because we don’t have the aerial view. We have a limited, fleshly understanding and perspective of who people are, ourselves included, and beyond that, who they/we will become.
Jesus sees beyond all of that, from a perspective we could only hope to have.
Where you and I see Peter in Luke 22 denying association with Jesus, Jesus sees Peter in Acts 2 preaching Christ to thousands who would come to faith in Him as a result. Where you and I see Peter John 21, walking away from ministry and his calling, and back to what he was called out of, Jesus sees Peter later in John 21 being restored. Where you and I see Peter as who he is, Jesus sees Peter as who he would become in and through Christ.
See, Jesus is the source, or author, of our identity. It is not our failure, or even our success. It is not the bad decisions we’ve made, the lifestyle we’ve created, the ministries we serve in, things that happened to us, the titles we hold, the relationships we’ve ruined, the roles we have, or even any “good” thing we’ve done.
When the Lord redeemed Israel in Isaiah 43, this is what He said:
But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.” (v1)
Before we even come to know Him, He knows who we will become in and through Him. And the moment we start that relationship with Him, everything we once used to identify or define ourselves, or what others used to label us, is erased and replaced with one simple identifying statement by the Lord:
You are Mine.
On my best day, on my worst day. When I’m succeeding and when I’m failing. When I’ve reeling from a horrible decision I wish I didn’t make, and when I’m standing the middle of what God called me to do. When I’m like Peter in John 18, Luke 22 or John 21, and when I’m like Peter in Acts 2.
In the midst of it all, my identity is forever simply summarized by this one thing:
I am His.
My heart finds a rest in this truth that I will never be able to adequately explain.