In the last episode of Grace Drops, I spoke on the importance of threshold stones as altars. If you’d like to read more on this topic, please download the free book by Henry Clay Trumbull right here. At the end of the nineteenth century, just as the sacrificial rites associated with thresholds were fading into obscurity, Trumbull made an invaluable record of the various ceremonies throughout the world associated with them.

Now, one of the most significant foundational moments for followers of Jesus is the conception of His church. We have a description of the events leading up this threshold moment. Jesus had taken His disciples to Caesarea Philippi on the northern border of Israel and there He asked them who the public thought He was as well as who they thought He was. Simon, the fisherman from Bethsaida, took the plunge and proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah.  

And in Matthew 16:18NIV, Jesus responds to this announcement by giving Simon a new name. He says: ‘I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.’

Now that Greek name, Peter, is given elsewhere in Scripture as the Aramaic Cephas or Hebrew Kefa. Theologians can fight all they like over the nuances of the Greek words for Peter and rock and the significance of one meaning pebble and the other boulder. Quite frankly, I think they’ve missed many of the deeper spiritual implications of Jesus’ words by failing to notice that one of the most important Hebrew words for a threshold was used at a threshold moment.

Cephas comes from ‘kaph’, that stone where the blood of sacrifice pooled on the threshold. It comes as a shock to some people that Jesus would give Simon a name basically meaning cornerstone. Some believers can’t cope with the idea that the Chief Cornerstone would give away one of His own titles. Get over it. Jesus is the Light of the World but, in Matthew 5:14, He also calls us to be the Light of the World. In addition, Ephesians 3:15 tells us that every name in heaven and on earth comes from God. It’s His right to bestow names as He chooses.

There are several implications of the name Jesus gave to Simon. First, Cephas is basically the same as Caiaphas, the name of the High Priest in Jerusalem that year. Jesus therefore appointed Simon to fulfil the divine calling Caiaphas had turned his back on: as High Priest, he should have been the first to proclaim the Messiah. But he wasn’t willing to concede power. The second implication of what Jesus says is that, with Simon’s words, heaven has come down to touch earth. The name Cephas is not just related to ‘kaph’ the cornerstone but also to kaphar, the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant where heaven and earth were said to meet.

This is Grace Drops; I’m Anne Hamilton. May the kiss of heaven and earth be yours today.

Thank you to Lorna Skinner of for the background music.