It’s interesting to note that when Jesus began His earthly ministry, He didn’t simply dive in randomly and start to minister to people. He knew that His time on earth would be short and that there would need to be a solid group of followers that would carry on His ministry once He left the planet – also known as the Ascension. So from Day 1, He began to recruit that small band of followers to whom He would entrust His message of truth.
The first was named is Andrew who was Simon Peter’s brother. The text reads, “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) (John 1:40-42).
Andrew’s brother, Simon, would play a very significant role and so the reference is made at the introduction of Andrew that he was the link to Simon. Andrew had found someone very special in Jesus and his first thought seems to have been to share that great news with his brother. The text implies that this subject was already on the radar screen for both Andrew and Simon, and Simon immediately responded to Andrew’s excitement.
Names were of great significance in the culture of that day, so before we go any further we need to take a look at this man Simon and his multiple names. His given name was Simon and when we first see him in Scripture we usually see him referred to by that name. In this first encounter, we see that Jesus stated that he would be called Cephas which means Peter. In Aramaic, a common local language of the day, the name Cephas was derived from the same root word as “rock.” This cryptic statement doesn’t seem to make sense at the time, but there was more to come.
Many months later, Jesus and His disciples entered Caesarea Philippi, a noted cult center featuring the worship of many idols. At that time, Jesus asked the disciples to explain who they thought He was. Simon answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Simon had rightly identified Jesus as the Son of God, the Savior of the World, the Messiah. This is recorded in Matthew 16:13-18. At that time, Jesus’ pronouncement that Simon shall be called Cephas was realized – sort of. Jesus stated that this understanding of Simon’s that He was the Son of God would become the foundation, the rock, of the church, and He says to Simon that he is now Peter. Sure, this is a little confusing until you realize that in Greek, the official language of the day, Peter is derived from the same root work as “rock.” So Simon would essentially be known as Rock, whether addressed with the Aramaic Cephas or with the Greek Peter or Petros. Either way, we come to understand that Simon/Cephas/Peter, though not THE rock upon which the church is founded, would play a foundational role in the expansion of the truth about Jesus Christ and the early development of the Christian church. Andrew and Simon Peter would be among the few selected to move the story of Jesus throughout what we now know as the Middle East.