The Bible says, “And Simon he surnamed Peter” (Mark 3:16, KJV). The name Simon means a piece of grass, a reed, weak, and easily pushed or manipulated. Peter, in contrast, means a rock, stable, fixed, established, and strong. It seems like such a minor piece of Scripture, but in reality it is an explosive revelation about the heart of God. Just like Jacob called his son Benjamin (son of the strength of my right hand) refusing to allow his dying wife Rachel to call him Benoni (son of my sorrow), Jesus named Peter not for what he was, but for what he would become.
Despite his new name, Peter often reverted back to Simon moments throughout Scripture, including proposing the building of three shrines in honor of the transfiguration, sinking in the water after taking his eyes off Jesus, being rebuked by Jesus for saying he would not die, refusing initially to allow Jesus to wash his feet, boasting he would never deny the Lord, cutting off the ear of Malchus in the garden, and then ultimately denying the Lord three times.
The truth is we all, despite the new birth in Christ, stumble and have our own Simon moments. But Simon moments do not change the Lord’s mind about our potential and destiny. Jesus has mercy when we act more like a Simon than a Peter. After Jesus’ resurrection, the angel of the Lord told those at the tomb to tell the disciples AND PETER to meet Jesus in Galilee. This simple statement made it clear that Jesus had not given up on Peter.
But Simon had to do a few simple things to get the Peter back. First, he had to show up. Too often condemnation and shame keep us away from God’s love and mercy. We don’t need to give up, we simply need to show up (John 21:1-14). We don’t know what Jesus said to him that day, but I can imagine (as Leslie Hale suggested) Jesus walking up to him and saying these simple but powerful words, “Hi, Peter.” Believers may fall seven times, but they get back up (Proverbs 14:26). As Micah 7:8 says, “when I fall, I shall arise.” Our victory comes in just getting up and showing up even when we don’t feel like it. Showing up means we receive the mercy that is available to us.
Second, he had to grow up. Our Simon moments are really just a developmental and maturity issue. Jesus challenged Peter to focus on loving, caring for, and feeding his people (John 21:15-22). The Simon moments in our lives become scarce when we mature and begin to focus on the needs of others. We all have Simon moments, but God help us if we are not merciful to others when they have them too. Growing up means we share the mercy we have enjoyed with others. Peter would eventually say that growing up would keep believers from being unproductive and ineffective, and would keep them from falling (2 Peter 1:8-11).