“Juli-Buli, it is so good for you to join us,” the woman in the church foyer gushed as she wrapped her arms around me. I stiffened as she released me from her bear hug. Only my dad calls me that, I grumbled to myself.
To have a stranger use my dad’s nickname for me made me uncomfortable, but it reminded me of an important fact: nicknames are almost sacred. When friends call us by our nicknames, it is as if they are also saying, “We are close. We have a history. We are friends.”
One of the most powerful truths in the Bible is that Jesus used nicknames for His disciples. “These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘sons of thunder’)” (Mark 3:16, 17).
Jesus’ use of nicknames reveals something powerful about how He relates to us. Each nickname revealed how He loved each disciple uniquely, as there were individual traits about each one that Jesus acknowledged and loved. He knew Simon well enough to call him Peter—the stone; and James and John enough to call them the sons of thunder. Jesus’ love for His disciples and for us is not just a feeling of goodwill directed toward a group of people, but rather a love that takes in the distinctive qualities of each person. In a sense, each relationship Jesus has with His followers has its own DNA. He appreciates a sense of humor, a love for nature, a passion for cooking, or any other idiosyncratic quality that His followers might have. He loves, enjoys, and laughs with delight over His children.
I wonder what it must have been like for Simon to hear Jesus call him Peter. Or what it must have been like for John to hear Jesus call him a son of thunder. It makes me think about the times I have heard my own nickname called. I love hearing my nickname—especially after a long trip among strangers. When I arrive home and someone calls me “Jules” instead of Julie, I know I am where I belong. I am home. Peter, James, and John had the privilege of knowing what it was like to be at home with Christ.
Jesus is calling each of us to be at home with Him. Can you imagine Him calling you by your nickname? What would it sound like? How would you feel when He said it? Not only can He call you by your earthly nickname, but He has a special nickname waiting for you in heaven. Jesus said, “To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it” (Rev. 2:17). God has an eternal nickname that He wants to share with you. And the name He has prepared for you will be between you and Him—an intimate seal of your friendship forever.