Approved with a New Name

by Bryan Marvel

Read Matthew 16:13-20

Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you

by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you

that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates

of Hades will not overcome it. (v17-18)

Years ago I was officiating a funeral for a woman in our church. I had arrived a few hours before the funeral began to greet the family and help them get settled before guests started to show up. In the days leading up to the funeral I had met many different family members, but there was still one I had yet to meet, the woman’s son. When we finally met, I was taken aback by how he introduced himself.

He said, “Hi I’m Shawn (not his real name). They (being the family) probably told you about me didn’t they?”

“No. Not really.” I replied. “Should they have?”

“Well, it's just that I’m kinda the screw-up of the family. I guess you could say I’m the black sheep.”

I was speechless. I wondered what had happened in this guy’s life to bring him to the point where he deeply believed this about himself and it became the way he made his introduction to others. It made me realize that he’d been carrying this perception of himself for so long that it actually had become his identity. And it had reached the point that he didn’t think anyone, even someone he was meeting for the first time, could ever see him as anything else. It made me wonder if those were things that people had said to him and about him throughout his life.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once said, “Words create worlds.” Sometimes we fail to recognize the power our words carry. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” We can either build someone up or tear them down just by using our words. Jesus understood this intimately. At His baptism in Matthew 3:17, Jesus’ Father spoke some profoundly powerful words over Him. He said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” I have to believe that Jesus carried those words with Him throughout his earthly ministry. And when given the opportunity to do the same thing for someone else, Jesus doesn’t disappoint.

When Peter makes his declaration of who Jesus is, Jesus gives Peter a new name. He changes Peter’s name from Simon to Peter and says, “On this rock (i.e., on Peter) I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). What affirmation! What encouragement! Those words completely change the course of Peter’s life. They launch Peter into a new level of leadership and influence. Throughout his life, Peter doesn’t always get it right, or do it perfectly, but at this moment Jesus speaks a new reality into existence for Peter that never goes away. And Jesus doesn’t just do this for Peter, He also does this for us.

In 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” In God’s eyes you are chosen, royal, holy, and special. When tempted to believe you’re a screw-up, a black sheep, or anything else, remember these words and hold fast to who you are.

Reflection:

1. What are the negative ways in which you are prone to see yourself based on self-perception, or perhaps how you believe others have seen you?

2. Spend a few minutes reading the words from Matthew 3:17 and 1 Peter 2:9 as though they are from God being spoken over you.