Jesus isn’t quite the sensible type. He has no regard for the proper social order of things. He is under the impression He can meet someone for the first time and change their name on the spot: no asking if it’s okay with the person, no discussion with family members, no time to cherish the past with all the memories of loved ones shouting the original name in laughter and joy. In a split-second not only is Simon’s name changed, but all the plans he had for the future, his entire life drastically altered by this man he just met. But Jesus doesn’t care. Evidently He knows perfectly well what this Simon, now Peter, is capable of, what he is able to endure to follow this Jesus wherever it may take him.
And yes, Peter endures a tremendous journey, to say the least, following this fateful moment. He has no idea what Jesus really has in mind when He switches the name on a whim. Peter is about to witness lame beggars walking, deaf ones hearing, the dead now living. And yet through so many miraculous moments, through powerful experiences that will forever change his outlook on life, Peter still manages to deny the man, His Savior, Who made it all possible to begin with. Evidently the name change didn’t promise any ease to the rest of life, but only a promise of the One to remain beside Peter through all of it, even when Peter denies knowing His Savior. That is love that only Jesus can muster.
After all, it is out of love that Simon’s name is changed, not manipulation. It is out of love when our identity is changed in the waters of baptism, and each one of us is given a name that we didn’t ask for, but nevertheless we are claimed as a child of God. Jesus doesn’t wait around for us to get old enough to decide for ourselves, to make sure it’s okay with us and our family. This love can’t wait. There’s too much hope He sees in us. There are too many gifts and talents within us to let them go to waste. This Jesus wants us from the outset. He won’t wait around. There’s too much work to be done for all children of God.
And so the water is poured over our head without our permission, without us having any say in the matter on whether or not we actually want this kind of love in our life. Nevertheless, our soul is branded with the name, “child of God.” Now from that point forward Jesus does not promise ease of any sort; quite the contrary. Because the problem is that when Jesus claims us as a child of God, we cannot forget there are other children of God out there, and so they become our sisters and brothers in Christ (again, without Jesus checking with us first to see if that’s okay).
The problem gets worse when we actually get to know them after awhile. They really do become like another sister and brother we cherish, united by this love of a man, of a Savior we never met ourselves, but He meets us time and time again. He did meet us there in the waters of baptism, when He promised to take our soul on a ride we could never imagine. He meets us in our struggles. He meets us in our joys, on the nights when we cannot fall asleep, in the days we feel lonely, in our triumphs, and even through all the transitions in between. Jesus never promised ease when we became a child of God, but He most certainly promised to be there throughout this life and beyond. He promised to show up through our sisters and brothers in Christ. He promised that at no point would we ever have to go through this life alone. Jesus is always going to find a way to be there for us.
Because Jesus believes there’s still too much hope in us. There are too many gifts and talents within us to let them go to waste. There’s too much work still yet to be done for our sisters and brothers in Christ near and far away. Jesus refuses to sit back and wait. Even after Peter denies knowing Jesus while others brutally beat the Savior before His eventual death; Jesus still sees hope in Peter, still sees so much that can be done for others through what Peter has to offer.
After the Resurrection when Jesus could have very well thrown Peter off to the side, to say He is no longer worthy of the name “Peter,” the Rock on which I will build my church. And yet Jesus sends the far-from-perfect man out, to help usher in more children of God, to start a church that would reach all over the earth: for more and more relationships between sisters and brothers in Christ, for there to be places to share in Holy Communion, for there to be joys and struggles taken on together, for there to be more incredible ministry done. And so it continues long after Peter is gone, because there’s still too much hope in you, too many gifts and talents to let them go to waste, too much work still yet to be done. Jesus isn’t waiting around. There’s too much love to be shared with this community and beyond. There’s too much life pouring out from God each and every day. And it will never, ever, stop, because Christ is still Risen and will be forevermore. And for that, for the sacred privilege to be children of God throughout this life and beyond, we give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon