Peter the apostle is one of the most prominent characters in the Gospels, a rough and tumble man whose emotions often got him into trouble, and yet he was clearly one of the favorites of Jesus Christ, who loved him for his big heart.
Peter's true name was Simon. With his brother Andrew, Simon was a follower of John the Baptist. When Andrew introduced Simon to Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus renamed Simon Cephas, an Aramaic word meaning "rock." The Greek word for rock, "petros," became this apostle's new name, Peter. He is the only Peter mentioned in the New Testament.
His aggressiveness made Peter a natural spokesman for the twelve. Often, however, he spoke before he thought, and his words led to embarrassment.
Jesus included Peter in his inner circle when he took Peter, James, and John into the house of Jairus, where Jesus raised Jairus' daughter from the dead (Mark 5:35-43). Later, Peter was among those same disciples Jesus chose to witness the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9). Those same three saw Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33-42).
Most of us remember Peter for denying Christ three times during the night of Jesus' trial. Following his resurrection, Jesus took special care to rehabilitate Peter and assure him he was forgiven.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled the apostles. Peter was so overcome that he began to preach to the crowd. Acts 2:41 tells us 3,000 people were converted that day. Through the remainder of that book, Peter and John were persecuted for their stand for Christ.
Early in his ministry, Simon Peter preached only to Jews, but God gave him a vision in Joppa of a huge sheet containing all types of animals, warning him not to call anything made by God impure. Peter then baptized the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household and understood that the gospel is for all people.
Tradition says that persecution of the first Christians in Jerusalem led Peter to Rome, where he spread the gospel to the fledgling church there. Legend has it that the Romans were going to crucify Peter, but he told them he was not worthy to be executed in the same manner as Jesus, so he was crucified upside down.
Accomplishments of Peter the Apostle:After being invited by Jesus to come, Peter got out of his boat and for a brief few moments walked on water (Matthew 14:28-33). Peter correctly identified Jesus as the Messiah (Matthew 16:16), not through his own knowledge but the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. He was chosen by Jesus to witness the transfiguration. After Pentecost, Peter boldly proclaimed the gospel in Jerusalem, unafraid of arrest and persecution. Most scholars consider Peter the eyewitness source for the Gospel of Mark. He also penned the books 1 Peter and 2 Peter.
Peter the Apostle's Strengths:Peter was a fiercely loyal man. Like the other 11 apostles, he left his occupation to follow Jesus for three years, learning from him about the kingdom of heaven. Once he was filled with the Holy Spirit after Pentecost, Peter was a fearless missionary for Christ.
Peter the Apostle's Weaknesses:Simon Peter knew great fear and doubt. He let his passions rule him instead of faith in God. During Jesus' final hours, Peter not only abandoned Jesus but denied three times that he even knew him.
Life Lessons from Peter the Apostle:When we forget that God is in control, we overstep our limited authority. God works through us in spite of our human frailties. No offense is too great to be forgiven by God. We can accomplish great things when we put our faith in God instead of ourselves.
Hometown:Native of Bethsaida, settled in Capernaum.
Referenced in the Bible:Peter appears in all four Gospels, the book of Acts, and is referred to in Galatians 1:18, 2:7-14. He wrote 1 Peter and 2 Peter.
Occupation:Fisherman, a leader in the early church, missionary, Epistle writer.
Family Tree:Father - Jonah
Brother - Andrew
"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." (NIV)
Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right." (NIV)
1 Peter 4:16
However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (NIV)
Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.