Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend
“A New Name”
John 1:35-42 (ESV)
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
We often overlook the significant actions that Jesus performs in the gospels. In this passage, Jesus changes the name of a man whom He has just met. This is clearly not an ordinary everyday event, which, to the modern reader, sounds completely random. However, the Jewish people would have understood the two-fold significance of someone changing their name. First, only God has the right to give you a new name. This makes a lot of sense. Other than your parents, no one else should have the right to change your name. Second, your new name speaks a new identity and destiny over your life. Names in the ancient Middle East meant much more than the arbitrary labels that we give our children. Changing your name meant changing who you are and the purpose of your life. When Jesus met Simon, I’m sure he knew how unstable this young man was—how impetuous, and how unreliable. But Jesus, seeing who he could be, that is, his potential in God’s hand, called him Peter—the rock on which He would build the church.
Like Peter, God has a better name for each of us but we have to be willing to receive it and live it out. There is an interesting British reality show called the Monastery that takes completely irreligious people and challenges them to spend several weeks living as monks in a monastery. In one of the shows, there was a young man who had been working in the porn industry and at the end of his time in the monastery, he realized that he didn’t want to go back to his old life. He was afraid that he would lose everything that he had gained during his time separated from the world and separated from sin. When the monk who has been his spiritual director saw this young man struggle with this decision, he told him slowly and deliberately, “You have a name given to you at birth but you also have a name that you don’t know.” The monk then described how in the book of Revelation, Jesus tells us that our true names are written down in heaven on white stones, and this name on the stone is our real name, which points to our true identity: “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (Rev. 2:17).
In the final moments as this young man began to prepare to leave the monastery, the monk took one smooth white stone out of his pocket and gave it to this once hardened, insensitive English hooligan and told him, “This is a symbol of your quest to find out who you really are before God.” Needless to say, the young man left his job, began to attend church, and started to meet regularly with the spiritual director. It’s a deeply moving story that reminds us that whether you are Christian or not, we all share this quest to find our true identity, to receive the name that God has reserved for us. To receive this name, you have to overcome and conquer the pull of the world that is constantly trying to dictate to you what your identity should be instead of what it is in Christ. Perhaps, you need to start that journey today.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to see that my true name and my true identity is only revealed when I am found in you. May my life be hidden in you so that I no longer live but you live in me. Give me the eyes to see that titles like “successful,” “wealthy,” “powerful,” and “intelligent” will all fade away. Help me to reject the many different but temporary names that the world tries to label me with. Only then can I receive this glorious name that you have written down on a white stone, a name that will last into eternity.
Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 19-20
(Oops—The Thursday Bible reading should have been Matthew 17 instead of 16. We are now back to the correct reading plan.)