“These are the twelve he appointed: Simon to whom he gave the name Peter,” Mark 3:16
The next verses go on to list the other eleven disciples that Jesus called to be His messengers to the gospel, but Mark begins the list with Peter, the best known of all of Jesus’ followers. Mark reminds us that Peter is also known as Simon and Paul ,in the book of Galatians, refers to him as Cephas. We often think of Peter as the “rock” with Jesus saying, “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.” Matthew 16:18
We want to be careful with this verse and not misinterpret it as if it is Peter that the church is built upon. It is Peter’s confession that Jesus is lord that is the foundation (the rock) upon which the church will be built. “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:15,16.
Peter inspires many of us because he was a man with, shall we say, many flaws but he absolutely loved Jesus. He was a man of action such as when he jumped out of the boat on the Sea of Galilee and tried walking on the water only to sink and have to be rescued by Jesus. He was the disciple who grabbed the sword and cut the ear off the High Priest’s servant in the Garden the night before the crucifixion.
He, however, could have his low moments. On the eve of the crucifixion Peter is confronted three different times by people accusing him of being a follower of Jesus and three times he denied him. At the crucifixion he abandoned Jesus along with the rest of the disciples and hid himself away for fear of the Jews. Even years after, while visiting Antioch, he stops eating with Gentile Christians because of pressure from Jewish Christians that came from Jerusalem. Paul had to confront the Apostle Peter to his face and call him out in front of the whole church for his hypocrisy. (Galatians 2)
Yet, for all his ups and downs, Peter was the disciple Jesus called upon to teach the Gentile Cornelius and without him we probably wouldn’t have the Gospel of Mark. Peter is considered a major source for Mark in his writing of the Gospel.
When we contemplate Peter he seems to be a walking contradiction. On the day of Pentecost, he boldly preaches in the streets of Jerusalem proclaiming repentance and the resurrection. And yet for most of his missionary life we have no details or writings about his ministry. He drops out of sight in the second half of the book of Acts and it is almost as if he ceases to exist. In Galatians Paul states that he went down to Jerusalem three years after his conversion to meet Peter and it seems that both he and Peter died at the hand of the Roman Emperor Nero in AD 67.
Peter was freed from prison by an Angel who led him out safely past the jailors. It is recorded in the Scriptures of his healings and ability to perform miracles. This blog, The Beggar Danced, is taken from one of his miracles when he told the beggar at the gate called Beautiful (who had been unable to walk for 40 years) that he had no silver or gold for him but in the name of Jesus the man was given his ability to walk. The man went running, jumping, and dancing through the Temple rejoicing in what God had done.
There has developed around Peter a great apocryphal literature and I will just touch upon a few of the points. It is said that he and his wife preached in India after leaving Jerusalem. It is also said that he was crucified upside down but that has never been confirmed one way or another. Also it is believed that he was chained for nine months, he was chained to a post while waiting execution, and was held in absolute darkness the entire time. Tradition says that he converted his jailors and forty-seven others. Also it is claimed that as his wife was led out to be executed he called out to her, “O thou, remember the Lord.”
Regardless of what is true and what is legend Peter is an inspiration to every Christian. He was a man of strength and yet he manifested weaknesses that we all can identify with. He stumbled when he should have been strong and gave in and compromised when it would have been better to stand his ground for the gospel. Yet he was the man God used in mighty ways to first bring the gospel to the Gentiles, rally the believers on Pentecost, direct the church in Jerusalem during very trying times, and when it came time to lay his life down for the Gospel he willingly went to his death.
In our own lives we face turmoil and fear and like Peter we may also trust in God to take us through the storms and pull us up when we are drowning in the waters of turmoil.
One last thing you might find interesting is the brief description of Peter that has come down through the early church. It is said that he was tall and slender with a pale complexion. He kept his curly beard short and had no eyebrows or very thin eyebrows. Also his eyes were dark black, flecked with red from his long hours of weeping for Israel. Of course, most of this is simply legend but it would be nice if even some of the description were true, as it would give us a picture of one of the most amazing people to ever walk the face of this earth.