The Disciple/Apostle Peter is an interesting case study in human behavior. He was the first to be called by Jesus along with his brother Andrew. His name was also changed by Jesus to Peter, which in the Greek is “Petra,” which means rock. He was a tough Galilean fisherman and he came from a tough fishing family. He was a fighter and he was not afraid to speak his mind, and that would often get him into trouble. However, Jesus chose this man and used his tough gritty nature to build His church on!
Peter and his family had their own fishing business. They had their own boat and nets and I’m sure all of that was expensive and very important to them. Peter had fished his whole life and that is what he expected he would do for the rest of his life. Peter was a man’s man and he worked hard for a living.
This is what Peter did when he and his brother were the first to be called by Jesus to follow Him.
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.”
That is incredible! Do you know many people that would just drop everything and walk away from a family business like that? I don’t! That is incredible faith!
Peter had a child like faith from God and it showed! He also would question Jesus and later we even see him try and rebuke the Lord several times! Like I said, Peter would “stick his foot in his mouth” sometimes because of his manly gusto. However, he always responded to his mistakes with a humble heart of repentance.
“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. The he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Peter is so bold and you can almost see Peter rolling his eyes as he tries to explain the business of fishing to Jesus. I love that even though he doesn’t understand what Jesus wants him to do, he submits to His authority and he lets down the nets. Good thing he did! P.S. The “Lake of Gennesaret” is the Sea of Galilee. They also call it simply “the lake” in the Bible.
“When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Peter had a true repentant heart! He felt so bad that he had questioned the Lord in his brash fisherman way that he fell at the Lord’s knees in full repentance! He was a brash tough guy, but he had a humble heart and he wanted to please God.
“…Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”
Of course Jesus responds in love and forgiveness to Peter and that is how He responds to everyone who comes to Him! He tells us many times throughout the Bible to not be afraid.
In Matthew chapter 10 Peter is among the twelve disciples who are given authority by Jesus to become his twelve apostles.
“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
Peter was also the first disciple to confess that Jesus is the Christ! It was also at that time when Jesus gave him the name Peter and commissioned him for a very special purpose!
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
What was Peter’s response to such a statement from Jesus?! Well, in the very next verses, he goes right back and puts his foot in his mouth again. He tries to rebuke Jesus regarding what He must suffer, and the Lord has to rebuke Peter hard.
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Whoa, I bet that hurt! Peter did not understand what he was saying and the Lord had to set him straight. Jesus was explaining why He came and what He was going to do for the world, and Peter is over there rebuking Him about it. That was Peter, but the Lord disciplined him firmly because He loved him and He had a great purpose for him.
Only six days later after this amazing conversation, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a high mountain and He reveals His divine glory to them! It is called “The Transfiguration” and it is an incredible eye witness account of Jesus’ glory! See my post titled “The Transfiguration” for more details!
“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.”
I love how Peter wants to build three shelters for them! He is the ultimate laborer! He can fish and build houses and he is gruff and tough! Of course it is Peter who speaks up first too and God Himself interrupts him from the cloud! Again, we see Jesus respond with the familiar phrase “don’t be afraid.” He strengthened and blessed Peter through that amazing miracle on the mountain!
Peter was also with the Lord at the Last Supper on Passover before Jesus was crucified. Jesus tells His disciples that His blood will be poured out for the forgiveness of sins and that they will all fall away that night. Peter stands up boldly again and proclaims that he will never abandon the Lord. Jesus’ reply to Peter’s rebuke is not what he expected though.
“Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
” ‘I will strike the
and the sheep of the flock
will be scattered.’
But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.”
Peter had a bad habit of rebuking Jesus. He did not understand yet what Jesus was doing for them and for the whole world. This is evident when the men come to arrest Jesus. Peter’s reaction is to protect Jesus through violence!
“While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.”
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached out for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.”
Yeah, brother Peter carried a sword and he wasn’t afraid to use it! Like I said, he was a fighter and a tough guy! He wanted to protect Jesus and fight for Him, but He didn’t understand that the Lord had to die and that was His purpose. Jesus has to rebuke Peter yet again. Keep in mind, even after all of Peter’s faults, this man is still Jesus’ “rock” upon which He will build his church.
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
Right after Jesus is arrested, Peter follows the group all the way to the courtyard of the high priest to listen to their accusations against Jesus. While he is there, he is confronted three times about being a disciple of Jesus and three times Peter denies Him.
“…Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.”
For all of Peter’s tough talk, he ended up disowning Jesus three times just like Jesus had told him. Peter’s reaction is again one of a broken heart and repentance.
After Jesus is crucified, dead and buried, and rises from the dead on the third day He begins to appear to His disciples. In John chapter 21:15-19, Jesus reinstates Peter and tells Him again to follow Him. He asks Peter three times if he loves Him and three times Peter answers yes. Jesus gave Peter a powerful ministry, and you can read about Peter’s adventures for Christ in the Book of Acts. Jesus also tells Peter how he will die for God.
“I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Peter did end up glorifying God all the way to his death around 67 A.D. when he was crucified by the Romans. History records that he requested to be crucified upside down because he didn’t feel worthy to be crucified in the same way as the Lord. That was Peter. Tough and humble, brash and repentant, and he served the Lord with all his heart!
Peter’s life is a story of God’s grace and constant forgiveness. It is a story of God’s faithfulness even when we are not. We are just like Peter in so many ways! How many times have we messed up and God has forgiven us? Too many to count! Peter’s testimony is a shining example of God’s love to us all, and a testimony that Jesus can use even the roughest of us for His glory!
Grace and peace to you all!