The Disciples: Simon Peter

Jesus asked Peter “Lovest Thou Me”

We have been looking at the life of Jesus through the eyes of the witnesses of his birth and death.  However, what about his life? 

Other, than his mother, those who knew him best were his inner circle, the twelve disciples.  But who were these men?  What do we know about them and what happened to them after Jesus ascension into heaven?

Let’s take a look and explore the life of these men.

Simon Peter

Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew

More than anyone we may know the most about Simon Peter.  For a more in-depth study of him, check out my series on him.

So, who was Simon Peter?

“And walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brethren, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers.”   {Matthew 4:18}

We discover he is called both Simon and Peter. 

He is a fisherman.

He has a brother named Andrew.

“Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.”  {John 1:44}

So, we know Andrew and Peter came from Bethsaida.  Scripture also leads us to believe Bethsaida was a fishing village.

There are conflicting reports about exactly where Bethsaida was located. Various early church leaders claimed Bethsaida was on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, near the Jordan River passing into the Sea of Galilee, and about six miles from Capernaum.

A search shows the Sea of Galilee is about 6.4 miles from Capernaum. So, we can assume Bethsaida was somewhere in this region and area, although we can be sure it was somewhere in this vicinity.

Excavations in the late 1980s of an area known as et-Tell, have led many archeologists to believe this was the Biblical Bethsaida.

Now that we know a little more about where Simon Peter was from, let’s turn back to what we know about him.

Peter served Christ the remainder of his life

“And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother lying sick of a fever.”   {Matthew 8:14}

He was married.  Apparently, his mother-in-law lived with him and his family.

But, why was he called both Simon and Peter?

“…and Simon he surnamed Peter.”   {Mark 3:16}

Simon would have been his Jewish name, possibly after Simeon, one of the twelve sons of Jacob and tribes of Israel.  It was very common to name sons after the one of the famous Patriarch’s.

“And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church: and the gates of hell shall not overcome it.”  {Matthew 16:18}

Jesus actually called him Cephas, which translates in the Greek into Peter.  The origin in the Greek of the name Peter, comes from the word Petros, meaning rock and foundation. The word Petros was not used as a name before Peter, but has since become a very popular name.

Peter realized he’d done exactly what Jesus foretold

We will return to this in a few moments.

“And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and ames, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart:”  {Matthew 17:1}

Peter was part of Jesus inner circle.

“Simon Peter therefore having a sword drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear.”  {John 18:10}

At the very least, Simon Peter was protective of Jesus.  At the very most, he was impulsive and had a temper.

The name Simon means to hear or listen.  How ironic is this considering he cut off the soldier’s ear? 

As we know, Peter denied Christ three times, but stayed close enough to the cross for Jesus to lock eyes on him. 

Jesus asked Peter and the disciples who they thought he was

Mary Magdalene ran to tell Peter about the empty grave and he was the first to enter the empty tomb.  Jesus appeared to Peter and the other disciples and reconfirmed Peter three times asking “Lovest thou me?”

Peter was present at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the upper room. He and John healed the sick and were jailed and freed from jail. He took missionary trips to spread the gospel and was again jailed and rescued by an angel.

After Jesus ascension, Peter took the leadership role among the disciples/apostles, often speaking for the group, although James the Just {the brother of the Lord} soon eclipsed this role of leadership.

Peter is always mentioned first in the listing of the disciples and apostles, giving him great prominence.

To learn more about Peter, we have to turn to the history books.

Peter wept bitterly

The 9th Century Liber Pontificalis, which was a book of biographies of popes beginning with Saint Peter, stated he “served as bishop of Antioch for seven years”.

“Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, in his Epistle to the Roman Church under Pope Soter (A.D. 165–174) declares that Peter and Paul founded the Church of Rome and the Church of Corinth, and they have lived in Corinth for some time, and finally in Italy where they found death:

‘You have thus by such an admonition bound together the planting of Peter and of Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both of them planted and likewise taught us in our Corinth. And they taught together in like manner in Italy, and suffered martyrdom at the same time.’”

Peter is seen as the Bishop of Rome, from home the pope succeeded him.  For this reason, the Catholic Church reveres him as the First Bishop of Rome.

In 1 Peter 5:13, Peter writes “The church that is a Babylon…”   it is unknown of Peter was actually in Babylon or Rome, which was a common nickname for Rome at the time.

When Peter kept his eyes on Jesus he was able to walk on water

At least a dozen early church fathers wrote of Peter or Peter and Paul preaching in Rome or as the founders of the church in Rome.

Jesus tells Peter, “ “when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”  {John 21:18-19}

Early Church tradition states that Peter was crucified at the time of the Great Fire of Rome in 64AD.  Several early church fathers write of Peter’s martyrdom.  Traditionally, Peter is said to have been crucified upside down, not feeling worthy to be crucified the same way as his Lord.

St. Peter’s Basilica is believed to be the burial site of Peter.  Bones were found there in 1953, and forensic testing dates the bones back to a 61-year-old male from the 1st Century AD.  The Catholic Church views these most likely as the relics of St. Peter while others   disagree.

While there is much debate as to Peter’s fate and the accuracy of claims he went to Rome, the one thing we cannot deny is he was a leader, a close friend of Christ and continued to share the gospel to the end.

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