Considered one of the most influential of Jesus’ twelve disciples was a lowly fisherman named Simon (Peter) the son of Jonah, follower of John the Baptist. While we do not know much about Simon’s early life, we do know from the gospels that he was a fisherman alongside his brother Andrew which also was one of the twelve disciples.
The story of Peter and Andrew begins in the Holy Gospel according to Matthew on chapter 4:18-22 as described below;
18) As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
19) He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
20) At once they left their nets and followed him.
21) He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them,
22) and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.
The Holy Gospel according to John on chapter 4:35-42 states;35) The next day John was there again with two of his disciples,
36) and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
37) The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
38) Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
39) He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon.
40) Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
41) He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).
42) Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Kephas” (which is translated Peter).
The Holy Gospel according to Luke on chapter 5:1-11 states;
1) While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
2) He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
3) Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
4) After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
5) Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”
6) When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.
7) They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking.
8) When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
9) For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him,
10) and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
11) When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
I find it simply amazing how Jesus decided to recruit them by seeing they are simply fishermen casting their nets into the sea then tells them to follow him and become “fishers of men.” One could only imagine how difficult it could have been to just “walk away” and follow someone whom they had never met, but they most certainly saw Jesus for who he really was, the Messiah.
Peter was in fact the first disciple to call Jesus the Son of the Living God, the Messiah as seen in the next few passages;
29) And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Messiah.”
20) Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Messiah of God.”
16) Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17) Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
Peter also witnessed firsthand most if not all of Jesus’ miracles on earth including Jesus walking on water and the Transfiguration just to name a couple.
Matthew 17:1-9 – The Transfiguration
1) After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
2) And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.
3) And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.
4) Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
5) While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
6) When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.
7) But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
8) And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
9) As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Matthew 14:22-33 – Jesus walks on water
22) Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
23) After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.
24) Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
25) During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea.
26) When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
27) At once (Jesus) spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
28) Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
29) He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
30) But when he saw how (strong) the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31) Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
32) After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
33) Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Peter begin to stand out even more as the crucifixion of our lord Jesus would near. He would go on to call out the betrayer at the last supper, but Jesus wouldn’t tell. Yet Jesus did specifically tell Peter that he would deny even knowing who Jesus was three times before the cock crows. Peter swore that he wouldn’t do such a thing and that he was willing to go to prison and die with him, but when the time came, Peter did indeed deny him. It wasn’t until Jesus looked at him shortly thereafter during his crucifixion that Peter realized just how wrong he was for denying his savior and wept profusely. We see another example in the previous passage above from Luke 5:8 just how he had his doubts.
I believe Jesus knew any mortal man or woman would have their doubts about him, yet wanted Peter by his side anyway. After the resurrection, Jesus brought forgiveness, not retribution to Peter and the others. Peter was reconciled with the Lord, his sins forgiven, and his faith restored.
He took initiative and stood among the believers to replace Judas Iscariot with another apostle. He would proclaim the word of God upon his lips and in his heart, become the first pope, was canonized, and do great and wonderful things for the early church, which got him in a lot of trouble later on down the road.
Peter was in fact so faithful in his own convictions, he was eventually thrown into prison toward the end of his days on earth and martyred for what he believed. Jesus gives Peter a glimpse of just how he would be in his old age in the following passage from John 21:18;
18) Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.
Scholars believe that Peter was crucified alongside Paul by the Roman Emperor Nero, but because he felt so unworthy to be crucified in the manner his master was, he demanded to be crucified upside down. It seems that guilt of denying and doubting had followed him through all the years of his life after the crucifixion of Jesus, but the crucifixion of Peter would not stop Christianity from flourishing throughout the Roman Empire and in 313AD the Roman Emperor Constantine would stop the persecution of Christians.
The latest archeological findings indicate that St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome sits on what is believed to be the tomb of St. Peter, as Pope Pius XII announced at the close of the Holy Year of 1950, but it could not be confirmed. There are many wall writings in the catacombs which link to Peter and in 1968 Pope Paul VI announced the remains of a 60-70 year old male from the 1st century had been identified.
Peter was a simple man who came from practically nothing and left everything he had to follow Jesus. Through all of Peter’s faults, Jesus saw something specifically in Peter and still continued to show him that unconditional love and unfailing trust even after seeing a how his heart was filled with doubts and fears. People put their faith in Jesus, but Jesus put a lot of faith in Peter. Can you think of a time when you put your faith in someone only to have minimal results? On the other hand, perhaps you didn’t put enough faith in others only to see them far exceed your expectations.
St. Peter finally realized the error of his ways and humbled himself before Christ even to the point of being crucified upside down for what he believed. It is up to each of us to look deep within our hearts and change ourselves for the better so that we can be a devout follower of Christianity, humbled before the LORD our God.