Most Christians you talk with love Peter. We like him because he is relatable–he stumbles so many times in his walk with Jesus, but in the end he always learns his lesson. Peter was also a humble man and we recognize this in his salutation when he refers to himself by his birth name—Simon.
I was always taught that the name Simon means ‘shifting sand’ (unsubstantiated) and we see that instability continually throughout Peter’s meandering with the Lord. But then Jesus announces the name-change in John 1:42.
Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas.”
It is interesting to note that Jesus was speaking prophetically, because Simon does not officially become Peter; he does not change from ‘shifting-sand’ to ‘rock’ until Matthew 16:15-18
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
Who Are You
Does it not seem like the majority of people we know have an identity crisis, not knowing who they are or for what reason they are here? Peter attained his identity when he understood not who he was, but who Jesus is. Therefore, it stands to reason that we cannot possibly know who we are until we know who Jesus is.
Once we conclude that our life is all about His life, we can than begin to grasp who it is we were meant to be. To the extent we understand Jesus, we will understand ourselves. All things were made by Jesus and for Jesus. When we come to understand that Christ does not exist for us and our good pleasure, but that we exist for Him and His good pleasure, then our identity is no longer in crisis. Tell that to any teenager.
Peter has not forgotten. By the mere mention of his former name we know that Peter recognizes this is the person he used to be and by God’s grace he is no longer that person. We note that there is a no sorrow—Peter does not grieve his past, but rejoices in his salvation. I suspect that from time-to-time someone would ask him why he still occasionally used his former name and I suppose Peter certainly took the time to explain.