Peter [Pē'tûr]—a rock or stone. The Greek form of the Aramaic surname, Cephas. Peter was the brother of Andrew and the son of Jona, or Johanan (Matt. 4:18; John 1:40; 1 Cor. 1:12).
Peter is another of those outstanding characters in the Bible gallery of men, requiring a book all his own to fully expound his life and labors. From the many references to this reed transformed into a rock, we gather these facts and features of “The Big Fisherman.”
He was a fisherman of Bethsaida, a name meaning “the house of fish.” Afterwards he resided in Capernaum, where Jesus frequently lodged during His Galilean ministry.
His father was Jona, or Jonah, and Andrew was his brother. Both sons were fishermen on the Lake of Galilee and were evidently in partnership with Zebedee and his sons.
He first met Christ at Bethany beyond Jordan, where John the Baptist exercised his ministry. Both Peter and Andrew were disciples of the Baptist. It was Andrew who introduced Peter to Christ.
He received a triple call as friend, disciple and apostle. Through daily contact with Jesus, seeing and hearing His words and works, Peter’s character was deepened and strengthened.
He was a man with many facets of character. His life can be approached from many angles. He was naturally impulsive (Matt. 14:28; 17:4; John 21:7); tenderhearted and affectionate (Matt. 26:75; John 13:9; 21:15-17); gifted with spiritual insight (John 6:68), yet sometimes slow to apprehend deeper truths (Matt. 15:15, 16); courageous in his confession of faith in Christ, yet guilty of a most cowardly denial (Matt. 16:16; John 6:69; Mark 14:67-71); self-sacrificing yet inclined towards self-seeking (Matt. 19:27), and presumption (Matt. 16:22; John 13:8; 18:10); immovable in his convictions (Acts 4:19, 20; 5:28, 29, 40, 42).
He became the leader and spokesman of the Apostolic Twelve and of the three privileged to witness the raising of Jairus'daughter, the Transfiguration, our Lord’s agony in the Garden. He himself became a miracle worker, especially during the time portrayed in Acts.
He made a confession of Christ’s deity which became the foundation of the Church, and was appointed steward with authority of the keys, meaning that his was to be the privilege of opening the door of salvation to the Jews.
He miserably failed his Lord in an hour of crisis, being the only disciple to deny Christ, yet he was restored and recommissioned by Jesus after His resurrection. He became the dauntless leader of the infant Church and was foremost to protest his loyalty to Christ. After Pentecost, Peter’s ministry appears in four stages:
I. Jerusalem activities, 29-35 a.d., when James eventually succeeded to leadership of the Church.
II. Palestinean mission, 35-44 a.d., during which he remained for a while at Lydda and Joppa. He received a call to Caesarea, and in the house of Cornelius opened the door of privilege to the Gentiles.
III. Syrian mission with Antioch as a center, 44-61 a.d., during which he was accompanied by his wife, who became the pioneer Zenana missionary.
IV. Rome, 61 a.d. It would seem as if Peter reached here before Paul’s release from his first imprisonment, and a few years later suffered martyrdom by crucifixion, as Christ prophesied he would. Legend has it that Peter deemed himself unworthy to die in exactly the same way as his Lord had, and so begged his crucifiers to crucify him upside down.