The Bible records only eight times when God reiterates someone’s name. Four were spoken in the Old Testament era:  to Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses, and to Hannah. A thousand years later, Jesus–God with skin on–repeated Martha’s name. Jesus used the next double knock on Simon Peter.

The apostles were embroiled in a heated dispute. It wasn’t the first time they had argued who rightfully should be number one in Jesus’ kingdom. But tonight there was a sense of urgency in the air. Jesus had just said this was His last Passover supper with them. Then He followed up with talk about the kingdom of God coming. What better time than now to settle this ranking question once and for all!

Peter was in the thick of it. And why not? He was no pushover. Confident. (Some would argue he was more, well, cocky.)

On more than one occasion, Jesus had pulled him aside, along with James and John, for special revelations. What could that mean but that the Teacher was grooming him for His top man?

Peter prided himself on his natural abilities. Organizational skills. Hardworking. Persistent. Responsible. Ambitious. Self-motivated. He could smell a good deal and haul it in. In fact, when he first met the Messiah, he was already a respected partner in a profitable fishing business.

Obviously, Jesus had recognized his potential right away. Otherwise, He wouldn’t have said what he did the first time the two met:  “Jesus looked steadily at him and said, ‘You are Simon, the son of John. From now on your name is Cephas’—(that is, Peter, meaning ‘a rock’)” (John 1:42 Phillips).

Admittedly, Peter did possess some admirable qualities. But humility was not one of them–yet. That would begin taking shape the next time a rooster crowed the dawn of a new day.

Meanwhile, Jesus once again spent time with the apostles defining “importance”:

Within minutes they were bickering over who of them would end up the greatest. But Jesus intervened: “Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It’s not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant” (Luke 22:25-26 MSG).

Then Jesus spoke the double knock to Peter:  “‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat”’ (Luke 22:31 ESV).

As with Martha’s double knock, Jesus comingled love and concern. But why did Jesus use the birth name, Simon, instead of Peter, the name He had conferred on him at their first meeting? Was it because this apostle had not yet become rock solid? Or was it because Jesus wanted him to remember where he had come from? Or was it something else?

Interestingly, merely three verses later in the same conversation, the Messiah does call him “Peter” when predicting the apostle’s upcoming denial. Was Jesus making a contrast between a weak Simon and a strong Peter? Was He offering Peter hope for the future? Or again, was it something else?

There are two parts to what follows this double knock. First Jesus informs Simon that “‘Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.”’ Both uses of “you” are plural. Thus, taking Peter into His confidence, Jesus gives him the heads-up that all of the apostles–not just him–will be attacked by Satan.

However, what He tells Peter on the heels of that is not inclusive. The second part of Jesus’ message applies exclusively to Peter, for in it Jesus uses the singular “you” throughout:  “‘But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers”’ (Luke 22:32 ESV).

Peter would become the leader that Jesus could use.

Three Strikes

Three strikes! Peter’s shoulders slumped in disbelief. I’m out!

He hadn’t meant for it to end like this. What went wrong? He was so sure he was ready for this game. For the duration. For anything they would throw at him.

The team recognized him as their player with chutzpah. Some of them probably thought he was too impulsive at times, but they all admired him for his nerve. They could  count on him to step up to the plate and take care of business.

All of them heard him vehemently vow this moment would never happen. Now none of them would respect him. But that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst of it was he had disowned his adored captain.

Disgraced and humiliated, Peter ran from the courtyard into the dark of night, his burly body shaking with racking sobs. Soon, however, he realized the team was not going to ostracize him. Then in a few weeks, the captain invited him to an early fish breakfast on the seashore. There Peter learned the final score.

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Jesus asked three separate times. One time for each of Simon Peter’s denials in the courtyard that fateful night.

One by one Peter matched each denial with a confession of loyalty:  “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” After every assertion, Jesus gave the apostle a job to do. In other words He reinstated Simon Peter into His fellowship. He was given a second chance.

Peter had made three strikes during that night of testing, but he was not out! He had become a better man, one who himself would go to the cross for the Son of God  he had once denied knowing.