Men of the Bible
His name means: "Rock"
His work: A career fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. His character: Peter was a determined and impetuous man who became bold in his witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His sorrow: Like many impulsive people, Peter's greatest enemy was his mouth—speaking without thinking. This landed him in all kinds of trouble. His triumph: The leadership of the disciples, the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles, and his martyrdom for the Savior he loved. Key Scriptures: Luke 9
A Look at the Man
Simon Peter had heard about Jesus. Living close to the Sea of Galilee, as Peter did, it would have been hard to miss him. But Peter's career kept him busy. Being distracted by the Teacher wouldn't be good for business.
Then one morning, as Jesus walked along the shore with the usual crowd of people surrounding him, he stopped and, without warning or permission, stepped into Peter's boat. Imagine the fisherman's shock when Jesus said to him, "Push out into the deep and drop your nets."
"But, Master," Peter protested, surprised that Jesus knew his name. "We've been up all night fishing and haven't caught anything."
Jesus turned to look at Peter with a glance that for the next three years would become familiar.
"Okay," Peter sighed. "Because it's you, I'll do it."
The moment the nets drifted below the water's surface, they filled with fish. Peter called for a second boat. But the nets were so full of fish that both boats nearly sank. Suddenly Peter made the connection between the miracle and his own wickedness. "Go away, Lord," he pleaded as he fell to his knees. "I'm a sinful man."
The Master must have instantly bonded to this rough but tenderhearted fisherman. "Don't be afraid, my friend," Jesus said to him. This may have been the first time anyone had ever said these words to this brave man. Then Jesus added, "Follow me."
The most outspoken and visible of Jesus' disciples, Simon Peter was a remarkably complex man. He was impulsive, brash, thickheaded, courageous, tough—and fearful. But there was a special place among Jesus' closest followers for this man. We have no record of there being an election of officers, but the gospel writers put Peter's name first when they list the disciples. He was their designated leader.
And there was a special place in Jesus' heart for Peter as well. He was the only disciple who received a new name—a nickname. "Blessed are you, Simon son of John," Jesus announced to him one day. "Now you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. And against my church, the gates of hell don't have a chance."
But like the man who carried the name, the word rock had many faces. Certainly there was the kind of rock that provided stability—bedrock on which the church was to be built. But there was the rock that represented shallowness—an impediment for the seed to grow. There was the rock that got in the way of progress—the stumbling stone of offense. And there was the rock that was many Jews' weapon of choice. And in a contemporary setting, rock sometimes refers to a precious gem. Jesus couldn't have given Simon a more appropriate moniker.
But any instability that marked the man prior to Jesus' resurrection was permanently erased once he touched the risen Savior and heard his call once more: "Follow me!" It was Peter who stood at Pentecost and preached a radical conversion message. It was Peter who, like his Lord, healed the sick—even his shadow had healing power! It was Peter who confidently stood before the antagonists in the Sanhedrin, the same men who later murdered Stephen. "Salvation is found in no one else but Jesus," he declared. "There's no other name under heaven by which we must be saved!"
It was Peter who was singled out for an extremely unpopular assignment—to take the message of salvation to non-Jews. Peter, whom King Herod imprisoned for his refusal to stop preaching the Good News, was miraculously set free by an angel. And it was Peter whose death, Jesus said, would "glorify God."
While ministering in Rome, Peter was arrested by Nero and was later tried and crucified. However, unwilling to be killed in the same sacred way his Master had died, Peter requested that he be crucified upside down. His wish was granted, and God was glorified.Reflect On: 2 Peter 4:12–13 Praise God: For his love. Offer Thanks: For the wonder of a Savior who meets us where we are and transforms us by his Spirit. Confess: Your inconsistency in wanting to follow him but so often neglecting to be his unfailing and faithful ambassador. Ask God: For the will to be in his presence daily and to find in that encounter his redeeming power.