Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I’ve been thinking about nicknames. I’ve consulted Mr. Webster and he informs me that a nickname is “an additional or substitute name given to a person, place or thing: usually descriptive and given in fun, affection, or derision….”

You may have a nickname. In my teens I was nicknamed Flash. Our next door neighbors in Virginia, affectionately Punk and Skeeter, knew me as Moose and Doris as Orphie. More recently we have become known as the Mouseys to a receptionist and technician at Asheville Eye Associates. It has to do with a needed adjustment of Doris’s glasses and a resemblance to a Christmas ornament of a mouse with a red hat and eyeglasses down her nose. So it is with us.

You may have known a tall man named Shorty, and a lady nicknamed Judge, who had a son called Pig, all of whom are now gone, but who had lived in Tryon.

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However, did you know that nicknames are also found in the Bible? A group of boys regrettably called the prophet Elisha “baldhead” (2 Kings 2:23-24). Jesus nicknamed Herod “that fox” (Lk. 13:32). He nicknamed Simon, whom we know as Peter, Rocky (Mt. 4:18). Two hot tempered brothers, James and John whom He discipled, He nicknamed Sons of Thunder (Mk 3:17). Thomas, another of His disciples was called Didymus, that is the Twin (Jn. 11:16). The disciple Simon was nicknamed Zelotes, that is the Zealot” (Acts 1:13).

What is of interest to me, in addition to their nicknames, is the change that came over these disciples. Peter, who has been described as a football, because you never knew which way he was going to bounce, became rock solid (e.g. Acts 4:13).

Hot tempered James and John, who had been known to cloud up and rain all over everybody at the slightest provocation (Lk. 9:54), along with Peter came to constitute the inner circle of the disciple group (Mk. 14:32).

Thomas, whom we have come to know unfairly as “Doubting Thomas,” became firm in his faith (Jn. 20:24-28). Simon who had been a Zealot, that is a member of a political party bent on winning freedom from Roman domination for Israel, often by guerilla tactics, became zealous for Jesus and His cause.

How did these changes come about? They walked in the company of Jesus. In His company they became what they had become. They changed as they were with Jesus, but they never lost their distinctiveness.  They remained who they were before they met up with Jesus and took up with Him, but they were better men than before.

And here is what I especially like about all this. H.S. Vigeveno, in “Thirteen Men Who Changed The World” says, “They were men like us. You could meet them around the corner, in an elevator or at a social gathering. They had feet of clay. But they were endowed with a vibrant faith in the presence of Jesus.”

Therefore, we, too, can become the persons we have the potential to be but could never become without Him. Even in His company we’ll always be who we are, He’ll just bring out the best in us.