So, please give me the privilege of quibbling over Bible words. The basic languages of Scripture, biblical Hebrew and Greek, have always challenged and intrigued me, Aramaic less so. In forty years of preaching and teaching Bible truth word studies have been an essential discipline, a constant challenge. Translating Scripture isn't a natural study for me. Thankfully a few Bible language scholars have recorded their findings to provide us amateurs access to reliable translation and interpretation.
The life and times of Simon Peter have inspired and challenged me for generations now. He's the Apostle most of us would embrace as a blood brother. The leader of the first century church, spokesman for the Apostles, and person closest to Jesus was entirely human. His bumbling, stumbling, impulsive nature links him to us like minds as an identity champion. If Jesus loved this character maybe he can love me too. And, Simon Peter was a character.
Here's the quibble. One day Jesus asked the Apostles, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" (Matthew 16:13, ESV). You know the answers. They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets" (Matthew 16: 14, ESV). When Jesus persisted with "But who do you say that I am?" (verse 15), it was Simon Peter who replied: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (v. 16). That's when the word quibble occurs, Jesus said---
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has
not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter,
and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall
be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Matthew 16: 17-19, ESV
During a word study one day the people at Strong's Concordance of the Bible related that the name "Jonah" in Hebrew actually means "dove". Peter was the son of Jonah, maybe a peace loving man, or perhaps a fluttering bird type. When Jesus identified Peter as a "son of" Jonah it could have merely been a patriarchal reference. Still, for the quibbler in me, and lover of Bible words, it was a challenge, Jesus confronting Peter's personality and mannerisms. Even more, the wording indicated that Jesus was going to change Peter from a fluttering bird to a solid rock, the meaning of Petros. Peter would be a significant discipleship project for our Lord, transforming him from a wavering, inconsistent blowhard with hot flashes of temperament to a sturdy, solid rock of faith.
Of course, Peter's attraction to us involves his flighty ways. Many Christians today are fickle and erratic---this thing one day, this thing another, the sure fire believer on Sunday, the man or woman of the world the other six days. This inconsistent, fluttering bird system has sadlybecome the norm of American Christianity. And, the empty tomb is that which evokes change is us.
No, us fluttering birds don't have to go there physically. There is, however the spiritual visit, the devotional moments when we reflect on what God did there. It can change us fluttering birds into people of solid faith too. It was a defining moment for Simon Peter, the day he ran to the empty tomb. What was revealed to him there, and in his personal meetings with Jesus afterward, changed him into the passionate person of faith to lead the first chapters of the new covenant community we know as Christ's church.
Wow! The fluttering bird became the solid rock.