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Life of Jesus
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Peter the 'Rock': his story in the Bible
Peter was a Galilean fisherman who lived on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (see top right of map) with his wife, his brother Andrew and his mother-in-law. People at the time worked as a family unit, so the men and women of Peter's family worked together to catch and preserve/dry fish for export to the surrounding towns. This particular family was probably in partnership with Zebedee and his sons, James and John (Matthew 4:21).
Like his father and brother Andrew, Simon Peter was a fisherman by trade, working on the Lake of Galilee. His family seems to have been caught up in the revival movement led by John the Baptist.
Peter met Jesus at
Bethany through his brother Andrew, and was immediately impressed. Jesus called
him 'Peter', the rock - an odd choice of name since Peter seems to have been
passionate and impulsive rather than rock-like. Note: Jesus actually
called Peter 'Cephras', which is the Aramaic equivalent of 'Petros', a rock.Map of Palestine at the time of Jesus in the New Testament; map shows Bethsaida
Jesus Calls the Disciples, Duccio
It is hardly surprising that Peter was bowled over by Jesus. When he had only known Jesus a short time, Peter witnessed first-hand an unforgettable healing. His wife's mother was ill with a fever, apparently bad enough to cause concern. Jesus went to her, took her by the hand and lifted her up. The fever vanished immediately. Not only was she cured - she was strong enough to get up and cook for the visitors to her house, and serve up the sabbath meal after the synagogue service. A doughty woman indeed.
Gospel reference: Mark 1:29-31. See Bible Texts for St Peter
Jesus heals the mother-in-law of Peter, Rembrandt van Rijn
with Jesus all through the three years of Jesus' travelling ministry - rock-like
in his steadfast loyalty. He witnessed all the major events of this
extradordinary time. For example, one night Jesus was on the shore while the disciples, including Peter, were out on the Lake of Galilee. The weather was stormy, the water rough. Suddenly the men in the boat saw a figure walking towards them over the water. It was Jesus.
Jesus Walks on Water, artist unknown
Peter at the Transfiguration of Jesus
This was a momentous event in Jesus' life. Peter had just proclaimed his belief that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.
Jesus, Peter, James and John became separated from the others and went up onto the flat summit of a mountain. Something happened there that the disciples tried haltingly to explain to the others later on: Jesus had been transformed, and at the same time the figures of Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets) appeared talking with him.
They experienced something like a voice that came from nowhere and everywhere, telling them that Jesus was the Son of God, chosen by God and now revealed to them.
Peter, always enthusiastic, wanted to put up tents or bowers, but Jesus gently restrained him. Peter and the other disciples did not understand what all this meant until after the Resurrection.
Read the story at Bible texts for Peter
The Transfiguration, Fra Angelico
Transfiguration, unknown artist
At the Last Supper, Jesus washed the feet of each of his disciples. Peter objected to having his feet washed by someone he venerated, but Jesus
Christ Washing the Feet of St Peter, Ford Madox Brown
The Last Supper, Jacopo Bassano. Peter sits at Jesus' right hand
Peter and Jesus in the film 'Passion of the Christ'
Peter was with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane just before his death. When the soldiers tried to arrest Jesus, Peter unsheathed his sword and swung it at the head of one of them, a slave of the High Priest called Malchus. He missed, but cut off the ear of the unfortunate man.
The Arrest of Jesus, Fra Angelico
Peter Smites the Ear of Malchus, James Tissot
Peter Denies Jesus
After Jesus' arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was taken to the house of Caiphas the High Priest. This was an official residence with an open central courtyard. Peter was there, waiting outside while Jesus was being questioned.
Saint Peter's Denial, Antoine/Louis Le Nain
The Denial of St Peter, Gerrit van Honthorst
The Third Denial of Peter, Caravaggio
When Mary Magdalene burst into the room where the disciples huddled, and announced that Jesus had risen from the dead, Peter and the much younger John did not hesitate. They took off running as fast as they could towards the tomb. John outpaced Peter and arrived first. But as soon as Peter arrived, he went straight into the tomb, alone. There was no-one there - just a cloth lying where the body of Jesus had been. See more about this at Running to the Tomb.
Peter and John running to the tomb of Christ, by Eugene Burnand
Pentacost, Peter began a whole new phase of his life. Inspired, he began telling
anyone who would listen about Jesus of Nazareth. He was, in effect, the father
of early Christianity. It was not an easy path. The early Christians were hunted and imprisoned by Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great (who slaughtered the Innocents at the time of the birth of Jesus).
St Peter in Prison, Rembrandt
The Liberation of St Peter, Gerrit van Honthorst (click image to enlarge)
The Liberation of St Peter, Raphael
There is no description of St Peter's death in the New Testament, but traditionally he is supposed to have died in Rome during the persecution begun by the Emperor Nero. It was said he was crucified, like Jesus, but upside down.
The Crucifixion of St Peter, Caravaggio
The central events of St Peter's life
show a man of simplicity and faith. He suffered from a common human ailment: he wanted to do and be good, but was not always able to live up to his goals. Jesus loved and forgave him, because whenever Peter fell, he got up and tried again.
Find out more
in the gospels
Bible Study Guide: Jesus Christ: the story of Jesus' disciple and apostle Simon Peter, called the Rock
Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Fletcher