Which Disciple are you Most Like – Part 2, Peter
Last week I started a series on the disciples. Most people can name quite a few of them, but only a couple of the disciples resonate with us because they are the most popular.
This week I would like to look at Peter, probably the most well-known of the disciples.
Peter was a fisherman that lived in the town of Bethsaida. He was part of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples and did evangelistic work among the Jews as far as Babylon.
Mark 1:16 – As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
Peter had many different names. During the time of Christ, the common language was Greek, so Peter’s Greek name was Simon. The language Peter grew up with was Hebrew, and his Hebrew name was Cephas. Translated into English, Simon and Cephas both mean “rock.”
Galatians 2:9 – James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.
Peter was a working man. A fisherman by trade, he was married. He was born right around the turn from BCE to AD and he lived somewhere around 65-70 years. The typical Galilean fisherman was salt of the earth. Jospehus, the Roman historian, describes the Galileans as “…quick to temper and given to quarrelling and they were very chivalrous men.” The Talmud explains Galileans as “more anxious for honor than gain, quick-tempered, impulsive, emotional, easily aroused by an appeal to adventure, loyal to the end.”
Honestly, the Talmud makes Peter sound like Bilbo Baggins from the Lord of the Rings.
Fishermen in Peter’s day were rough around the edges. They often swore and dressed shabbily. Many have described them as a “man’s man.”
Then his life changed.
He was still the shabby, quick-tempered fisherman, but Jesus called his name.
Luke 5:10-11 – Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
At that moment, Peter stepped up as the leader of the group (next to Jesus, of course).
He turned into the most well-known disciple, and the one that is typically listed first. He was also part of Jesus’ inner circle.
But that didn’t mean he was without his problems. I believe Jesus called Peter to show all of humanity how the individual mess-ups that we make don’t mean God doesn’t love us any less.
Peter made a lot of mistakes!
One minute he is walking on water by faith and the next he is sinking in his doubts.
He wanted to know how much he needed to forgive someone who sinned against him.
He wanted to know the reward for following Christ.
He was also the one who denied Christ several times.
Every time he fell, he would come back stronger, understanding Christ a little more each time. He was the first to call Jesus the Messiah.
Mark 8:29 – “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
After Jesus left this earth, Peter turned from disciple to apostle. As a disciple is a “follower of” Christ, an apostle is “sent” by Christ. Peter was the first to preach on the day of Pentecost and was the first to proclaim the Good News to a Gentile. He suffered a lot for the glory of Christ. He was persecuted, beaten, and jailed. But he rejoiced at his suffering.
Acts 5:41 – The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.
One more interesting note about Peter is that many believe the Gospel of Mark was actually written by Peter. John Mark was a companion of Peter’s later in life and dictated much of what he said. I don’t know for sure if this is true or not, but as I reread the Gospel of Mark, you can get a true sense that it was an eyewitness account. This makes you believe that the gospel is the life of Christ shared through the lens of Peter written by Mark. Some of the personal stories, like the transfiguration, are told in the first-person, which Mark never would have been at.
In the end, Peter died for the message of the cross and the gospel of Christ. Leading up to Peter’s crucifixion, almost all the apostles were martyred.
Church historian, Tertullian, as well as Origen and Eusebius say that Peter was stretched out by his hands, dressed as a prisoner, and taken where no one wanted to go, thus possibly fulfilling a prophecy by Jesus.
John 21: 18-19 – Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
The historical evidence shows that Peter was crucified upside down during the reign of Nero. When condemned to death, Peter requested to be crucified upside down because he didn’t feel worthy to die the same way Jesus died.
Arrogant fisherman to humble fisher of men.