In the Beginning
While the Apostle Peter is a well-known biblical figure and is featured prominently in many of today’s gospels and sermons, there was a time when he was known by another name. As this paper will show, there was a significant degree of foreshadowing in his life that indicates the intricacies of God’s plan for the Apostle and how even the most insignificant of individuals can be brought to greatness with the will of the Almighty.
Simon the Fisherman
Prior to becoming the Apostle that he was known as today, Peter was actually known by the name Simon and was actually a fisherman within Bethsaida.
In Matthew 8: 14-17 as well as in Luke 4: 38 it was indicated that Jesus had healed a woman in a home in Capernaum. Further research showed that this woman was actually the mother-in-law of Peter. Since the recorded acts of Jesus performing miracles are to be considered significant aspects in any bible study, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is indicative of a connection between Jesus and Peter that was already in place prior to their meeting by the sea (Ehrman 2006, 1-50). This is particularly important to take into consideration given the call to action that he would receive from Jesus in Matthew 4: 18-19. In the Gospel of Matthew it can be seen that Peter is called to become a “fisher of men” at which point he drops his nets and along with James and John become the first disciples of Jesus. It is the precise words utilized by Jesus and the fact that there was an already established connection between the two prior to the meeting by the sea that shows the full culmination of the earlier level of foreshadowing regarding Peter’s future role.
Why did Peter Join Jesus?
Peter was actually a widower, as evidenced by the Cor. 1 9:5. Furthermore, it was mentioned earlier within this paper that Jesus had healed the mother-in-law of Peter of an illness (Quinn 2011, 10). An investigation into the customs of this particular time period revealed close family ties especially those in small fishing communities. It is based on this that it comes as no surprise that Peter may in fact have cared for his mother-in-law from time to time. Since Jesus had healed her of what was apparently a debilitating condition a certain degree of indebtedness would have occurred. Other accounts such as those within Luke 5: 4-11 indicate that once Jesus performed the miracle of filling the nets of Simon, James and John with fish, it was at that moment that Peter in wonderment accepted the call of Jesus. Going over these particular accounts it can be stated that it was a combination of indebtedness and wonderment that caused Peter to become the disciple of Jesus.
Becoming “The Rock”
The pivotal moment in Simon’s discipleship can be seen in Matthew 16: 13-20 when Jesus asks his disciples who they believe that the Son of Man is and who do they say that he is. In this instance, Simon gave the now famous answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. It was at this point that Jesus imparted him with the name “Peter” which translates into “rock”.
The Discipleship of Peter
When examining the gospels surrounding Peter’s discipleship to Jesus, there are three distinct points of interest that arise which can be considered pivotal moments in the life of Peter, these involve his attempt to walk on water with Jesus, Jesus washing his feet and finally comes his denial of Jesus. While it may be true that there are numerous instances that detail the life of Peter from the gospel accounts, these standout the most since they show both the strength and weakness of his faith in Christ.
Walking on Water
This particular story is pivotal in understanding the discipleship of Peter since it shows that there was a measure of doubt in his faith (Schlumpe 2007, 24). It shows that even the most devout have moments of weakness which are not easily swayed which causes them to sink. What you have to take into consideration is that it was at this time that Peter had been proclaimed as the “representative/ head of the disciples”. Yet, what you have to take into consideration is that various biblical scholars have indicated that events prior to Jesus walking on water indicated that the position of being first among the disciples had actually created in Peter a certain degree of arrogance. This was evidenced by Peter’s general disposition towards the disciples at the time wherein he continuously emphasized his closeness to Jesus. It is based on this that incident of Jesus walking on water may have been way in which Christ helped to humble Peter by showing just how weak his faith really was. Combined with the fact that it was done in front of the other disciples helped to reel in Peter’s adverse behavior and to set him on the proper path towards discipleship.
Jesus Washing the Feet of Peter
In John 13: 2-11 a scene is shown where Jesus washes his disciples feet yet Peter at first does not want to Christ to do it since it is an act fit only for a servant. This scene is considered pivotal in the life of Peter since in it, he is shown what it means to be a leader. Peter had already been indicated by Christ as the rock from which his church would be built, however, it was necessary at this point in time to impart to Peter the necessary lessons of what it means to be a true leader.
The Denial of Peter
In Matthew 26: 33-35 and Mark 14: 29-31 a prediction was made by Jesus that Peter would deny him 3 times, at which point Peter said that he would stand by Jesus no matter what. Unfortunately, as mentioned before there has always been a certain level of foreboding when it comes to the live of Peter and in this instance there was no exception. On the very night Jesus proclaimed that Peter would deny him Peter did exactly that. When examining the denial of Peter of Jesus, it is necessary to determine why Peter would do so give his faith in Christ and his martyrdom a few years later. If he had faith in Christ before he denied him and died for the sake of Christ after a few years what had occurred in between in order to cause this apparent lack of faith. First and foremost, what you have to understand is that on the night that Peter denied Jesus, Jesus had in fact been recently arrested and soldiers at the time were seeking out the followers and supporters of Jesus (Ferda 2012, 421-457). This would of course instill a certain level of fear in anyone, as such it is not surprising that in order to avoid capture Peter would deny any association with Jesus.
Death and Legacy
While Peter and the Apostles were anointed by Jesus Christ and given the gift of tongues by the Holy Spirit, they were still unfortunately men and, as such, they were vulnerable to a variety of external forces that sought to destroy the early church. It is rather unfortunate; however, Peter himself died a martyr for the cause of early the church. Despite his death, through the actions of Saint Peter the early church was able to sufficiently spread and establish itself to such an extent that it eventually it became the official religion of the Roman Empire (Wells 2006, 106-108).
Role in the Early Church
As seen in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter was instrumental in the creation of the early church to the extent that he represented the Apostles on numerous occasions, helped to push through acceptance of the Gentiles within the church as well as lead the early church through its initial development. Many of the initial rules and rituals that helped to define the Catholic Church as well know of it today were created by Peter in response to not only the needs of the followers of the early church but also in reaction to the various external difficulties they faced. For example, the concept of charity, sharing and loving your fellow man that were initially taught by Christ was further enhanced by Peter and the other Apostles wherein they helped to distribute monetary resources and goods among members of the early church community in order to help those in need.
Death of Peter
Peter’s crucifixion was actually due to the fact that the great fire in Rome that had devastated the capital was actually blamed by Emperor Nero on the relatively small Christian population at the time since they acted as a convenient scapegoat. As a result, Peter was crucified upside down by his executioners in what they perceived as the most painful way possible. Interestingly enough, within the New Testament Jesus actually said the following line to Peter “and you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead to where you do not want to go” (Wells 2006, 106-108). Many biblical scholars have indicated that this particular statement was actually a method of foreboding wherein Jesus was actually foretelling Peter of his future demise.
Legacy of Saint Peter
The legacy of Saint Peter can be seen at the present through the numerous churches, followers and influences that the Catholic Church has in the world today. Without the initial efforts of Saint Peter in guiding and establishing the church, history as we know of it today would have taken a distinctly drastic turn of events. Today, Catholicism spans numerous countries, up to a billion devotees and has given rise to numerous charitable organizations resulting in the creation of better social institutions for the poor.
Ehrman, Bart D. 2006. Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: the followers of Jesus in history and legend. n.p.: Oxford University Press, 2006. Public Library Core Collection: Nonfiction (H.W. Wilson).
Ferda, Tucker S. 2012. “The Seventy Faces of Peter’s Confession: Matt. 16:16-17 in the History of Interpretation.” Biblical Interpretation 20, no. 4/5: 421-457. Literary Reference Center.
Grant, Michael. 1995. Saint Peter: a biography. United States of America: Scribner, 1995. Public Library Core Collection: Nonfiction (H.W. Wilson).
Quinn, Peter A. 2011. “Catholics At Work.” America 204, no. 8: 10. MasterFILE Premier.
Schlumpe, H. (2007). The Peter principle: What the impetuous apostle can teach today’s Catholics. U.S. Catholic, 72(9), 24.
Wells, Philip P. 2006. “THE LIFE OF ST. PETER THE APOSTLE.” In Bible Stories & Religious Classics, 103-108. n.p.: Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, 2006. Literary Reference Center.