Peter Apostle

What’s on this page?Peter's story

  • Key points about Peter Apostle, from books on Jesus

Who’s in the gospel story of Peter?

  • Jesus of Nazareth, his disciples Peter, James and John

In the Gospels, Peter’s character appears to be at variance with the nick-name of the ‘Rock’, given to him by Jesus. Whether his name was to describe his physique or his temperament, that name was prophetically confirmed by Jesus at Caesarea Philippi and amply justified by his granite-like leadership of the apostles from Pentecost onwards.

He was always a man of action, but from his calling by Jesus to his denial of Jesus he was a man of impulse and aggressive energy, of childlike simplicity and daring, alternating with a weak and cowardly instability.

From Pentecost onwards Peter was the true and undoubted leader of the Church, facing without fear the consequent persecution and punishment, and doing so with an inspiring courage and humility.

This humility is strikingly illustrated in the Gospel of Mark, which shows him in a far less favourable light than do the other three Gospels! This is particularly striking when it is remembered that Mark’s Gospel has been said by Irenaeus, as early as the year 185, to have been based on the reminiscences of Peter, the ‘mind behind’ the Second Gospel. (p.61)

From then onwards, Peter’s house at Capernaum became the head- quarters of Jesus’s lakeside ministry, and Peter’s boat was always at his disposal. The selection of the team of twelve disciples was completed, and Peter was always included at the head of the list. Perhaps this was not so much because he was acknowledged as leader by the other disciples, as the result of the fact that his household was the headquarters of the group and that he and Andrew were its first members. (p.62)

Peter may well have spoken colloquial Greek, but his native language would have been Aramaic; thus his Galilean brogue would have been all too obvious to the bystanders at the trial… (p.69)

(The Twelve Apostles, Ronald Brownrigg, Macmillan, London, 1974)

‘The awful scene inside the palace is matched by this one outside, where Peter has been sitting with the guards warming himself by the fire. Now he faces a crisis. One of the servant girls of the high priest has recognized him as a companion of Jesus. She tells Peter, ‘You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus. ‘Then she tells the guards, ‘This fellow is one of them.‘

Finally, the guards recognize Peter’s northern accent and say to him, ‘Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.’

Three times Peter is accused and three times he denies knowing Jesus. In Gethsemene, he had fallen asleep three times instead of praying. Now, that threefold sleeping is matched by this threefold denial, though he had said he would stand by Jesus, regardless what others might do (14:31). The spirit was willing, but the flesh has indeed proved weak (14:38).

Though Jesus would prophesy nothing to his tormentors (14:65), he had prophesied this to the Twelve (14:30).

No sooner had Peter denied knowing Jesus than the rooster crowed the second time, bringing immediately to mind the words Jesus had spoken. (Studies in the crowing habits of roosters suggest that the time would have been between 2am and 3am.)

Why does Mark include this sorry story? He wants his readers to understand that Jesus the Teacher, the man inside the house, is steadfastly faithful to God in contrast with the morally weak follower outside. Jesus is utterly alone as the faithful servant of God.

An absolute qualitative difference exists between him and his disciples. With the passing of the years the disciples will become famous as Christian leaders, but no one is to forget that Jesus is uniquely obedient to God, prepared to suffer the baptism and drink the cup (see 10:38).

The disciples are men with grievous flaws, with feet of clay; but Jesus is the heroic Son of Man. Only he is worthy to die for others.’

Mark, the Servant King, Paul Barnett ed., Aquila Press, Anglican Press Australia, 1991, p.259-260.

‘Upon meeting Simon, Jesus takes charge, giving him a new name, Cephas, which means ‘rock’. ‘Peter’ is the masculine variation of the Greek word for ‘rock’ (petra/petros) while Cephas is the equivalent in Aramaic).

The exchange serves to underscore how a person who becomes engaged with Jesus takes on a fresh identity in him. The scene emphasizes the impact of Jesus and his insight as the one who is the anticipated Messiah.

Jesus according to Scripture, Darrell L. Bock, 2002, p.420

Peter exercises much trust in Jesus when the initial request comes to ‘let down your nets.’ Peter, an experienced fisherman, replies that they had tried to make a catch all last evening, when conditions would have been more favorable, but had failed. Nonetheless, Peter gives the order, showing an element of trust in Jesus.

When the catch is overwhelmingly successful, Peter stops what he is doing, falls down before Jesus out of respect, and asks him to leave, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Peter’s view was that a sinner never could be so close to someone through whom God obviously was working.

This very humility is what Jesus affirms when he tells Peter not to fear, that “from now on” he will be catching people. It is precisely those who understand their position and who respond in trust whom God can and does use.

Jesus according to Scripture, Darrell L. Bock, 2002, p.107

‘It must be understood that life in the first century was short. It wasn’t unusual if a Jewish man died before he reached the age of thirty. People entered into adulthood at puberty. Jewish females married around thirteen or fourteen years of age, males a little older. In the Greek world, vocational training began in the midteens.

Bible scholar Craig Keener surmises that most of Jesus’ disciples were in their mid-teens. Peter, having a family, may have been older—perhaps eighteen.’


Interestingly not all of Jesus’ disciples left their homes. For instance, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (who were among Jesus’ closest friends) stayed in Bethany and made their home His home.

Jesus also appeared to have different circles among His disciples. Peter, James, and John enjoyed a more intimate relationship with Jesus. John seems to have been the closest to Him.

Even though Peter is always named first among the Twelve, Jesus was tough on him. The breaking of God is proportionate to the quality of ministry one will have later in life.

This principle emerges in bold relief in the way Jesus trained Peter. Despite the fact that Peter was repeatedly exposed and failed his Lord many times, he was the object of Jesus’ unending love. Even after he denied Jesus three times,” Jesus never mentioned the tragedy after His resurrection. Instead, Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to express his love for Him the same number of times that he denied Him. Then He commissioned him to feed His sheep.

On the day of Pentecost the same man who denied his Lord three times preached the gospel and opened the door of salvation to thousands of Jews. And as he preached, the other disciples stood faithfully by his side.“

In times of failure keep two words in mind: Remember Peter.

Jesus, a Theography, Leonard Sweet, Frank Viola, 2012, p.137, 147.

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