Begin Again

I was incredibly moved recently when a friend shared the exciting news that she had changed her name. Having been taken in by a family when she was 14 she knew for the first time what being loved as part of a family meant. Now 30+ years later she finds herself beginning again and entering a new chapter of her life. Part of marking that new beginning was changing her surname to the family one. It’s a testimony of faithfulness , love and adoption but also one of an ownership of her identity as one who is loved and belongs. Although it’s a new beginning it’s also true to say the journey has  come full circle and brought a completeness that a full stop can give.
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Names are significant aren’t they? So as I pondered John 21 again this week the question arose once more for me – why did Jesus say, ‘Simon Son of John do you love me?’
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We first meet Simon in Luke 5 when he is fishing and Jesus helps him catch a huge haul but he calls him out of that to be a fisher of men. At this time Jesus gives him a new name to mark the beginning of a new journey as a disciple. He calls him Cephas which means Peter. Yet here we are after the death and resurrection of Jesus and Jesus is calling him Simon.
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My first thought is that Peter has been behaving in his old identity – so call him by his old name then. He’s been journeying with Jesus, heard amazing teaching and seen incredible miracles. He witnessed the death of Jesus but when it came to really identifying with Jesus and being associated with him, fear set in and he had denied knowing Him 3 times. Even after the resurrection morning Peter is still confused: perhaps unsure which direction his life is taking now that Jesus was no longer with them and in the absence of any other plan to move forward, he returns to his old job of fishing. All night they work with no success until a man at the shore suggests casting the nets on the other side. As the men reel in another huge catch, one of them whispers,’it is the lord’ and Simon, ever the impulsive one, dives into the water to get to Jesus quickly.
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As they breakfast on the beach Jesus’ heart to restore Peter is huge. It reveals such kindness to give Peter a ‘do over’. In a wonderful redemptive act Jesus gives him 3 opportunities to confess his love for Him. 3 times Peter had denied Him but now 3 times He declares his love. A wonderful restoring.  Yet the question remains why call him Simon? If Jesus is restoring him why didn’t He call him Peter and reinforce the new identity He had given him as a fisher of men?
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 Jesus was coming full circle but also beginning again. In what can only be another ‘do over’ Jesus is also taking Simon back to the beginning when they first met. Jesus is taking him back to the foundations of that first meeting and gently reminding him of that fresh encounter. He wants him to hear again the voice that called him and begin again.  I can imagine all the thoughts going through Simon’s head: how when he first heard his name being called he lived up to the meaning of that name. Simon means ‘he has heard’ . Jesus wants him to hear again like the first time. He wants him to remember that in the state he was as a simple fisherman Jesus noticed him and called him and Simon followed. Nothing’s changed from Jesus’ side even though Simon denied him. Nothing’s changed about Simon’s destiny.  In fact in the ‘begin again’ moment there is also a fullness.
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Jesus not only says ‘Simon Son of John’ but he repeatedly asks ‘Do you love me?’ Bit needy of Jesus?  Self centred?   No chance! This is where I remind myself of Jesus’ heart to always give.  By asking Simon this question He is revealing what is in Simon’s heart not because Jesus needs to know, but because Simon needs to know. As Simon points out as a reply to the third time of asking, ‘You know all things, you know that I love you.’  Jesus knew but He wanted Simon to know and realise the depth of love He did have.
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 Oswald Chambers puts it like this,  ‘There was no room for passionate utterance, no room for exhilaration or sentiment.  It was a revelation to him to realize how much he did love the Lord. Peter began to see how much he did love Jesus; but he did not say – “Look at this or that to confirm it.” Peter was beginning to discover for himself how much he did love the Lord, that there was no one in heaven above or upon earth beneath beside Jesus Christ’
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Simon has always been a bit implusive.
  • He’s the one when realising Jesus’ is serious about washing his feet replies with gushing exuberance of yes and do more as well ‘do all of me over and over’ .
  • Simon was the one who wanted to show his commitment to defend Jesus by cutting off the soldiers ear when they came to arrest Jesus. 
  • He’s the one who wants to prove his faith in Jesus by walking on the water 
  • He’s the one who can’t wait for the boat to moor at the shore but dives in to swim so he’s the first one to greet Jesus.
Jesus is beckoning Simon to begin again afresh realising that he can add no enthusiasm or outward gesture of commitment other than his heart attitude of love. The full circle is to bring Simon back to his truest identity and that is to be lived in a life of love with Jesus. It’s about:
  • abiding in that love
  • receiving that love
  • responding to that love
  • living all of our life and activity from that love.  

 

Using Simon son of John was Jesus’ way of bring Simon back to being Peter.  Jesus had renamed him Peter meaning rock. This was when Simon had the revelation that Jesus is the Christ recorded in John 1 . It is on that rock of revelation that the future is built. That was this disciple’s future: His identity  was wrapped up in Christ being the Messiah. His whole future was to be lived dwelling in Jesus love.

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So I’m encouraged to begin again – start over afresh. By no means disregarding or leaving behind the journey thus far, but arriving at the place of hearing Jesus afresh and marvelling at the voice I first heard calling me again.   A time for a gentle, loving reminder of what being a disciple of Jesus is all about without all the needless efforts of my own extravagant demonstrations of faith or commitment but humbly loving and responding to Jesus. It a time for a fullness and  a complete circle bringing us back to the start to step into our truest identity that is focused solely and wholly around Jesus.
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T S Elliot sums it up: ‘We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time’
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4 Responses to Begin Again

  1. bluworlds says:

    God be with you always!

  2. Derek says:

    True, powerful, prophetic – great thoughts.

  3. Tom says:

    Great post! I am so glad that God allows me to try again and again to live the right way. I would have given up on me a long time ago. God is patient and very merciful. Thanks for sharing.

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