Simon Peter in the Gospels and Acts

[This post is part of the Cephas Series]

Simon Peter possessed multiple responsibilities.

  • He was a husband (Mark 1:30)
  • He was a fisherman (Matt. 4:18)
  • He was a disciple (Matt. 4:19-20)
  • He was an elder (1 Peter 5:1)
  • He was an apostle (1 Peter 1:1)
  • He was an evangelist (Gal. 2:7-8)
  • He was a church planter (Acts 8:14-17)
  • He was a preacher (Acts 2:14-41)

Peter had a few different names.

A few different forms of the Apostle Peter’s name can be found in the Bible. His birth name was Simeon bar-Jonah (cf. Matt. 16:17), which translates into, “Simon the son of John.” The Hebrew version of his name reads “Simeon” whereas the Greek version reads “Simon.” According to John 1:42, Jesus assigned his most popular name when they met for the first time — “[Andrew] brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter).” “Cephas” is an Aramaic name that means “rock,” and “Petros” is the Greek translation of “Cephas.” It may seem a bit confusing at first, but understanding Peter’s different names is helpful when reading through the Bible.

How did Peter meet Jesus?

As briefly mentioned in the previous section, Simon Peter met Jesus through his brother Andrew, who was also one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Among the Twelve, Peter, James, and John were considered the “inner three,” but it was Andrew who met Christ first and introduced him to Peter (cf. John 1:40-42).

Why is Peter considered “The First Disciple”?

Lists of the Twelve Apostles mention Peter first (cf. Matt. 10:2), but Peter was not the first disciple to meet Jesus. Peter is commonly known as the lead Apostle of the Twelve, so why is that? Most scholars believe Peter was the oldest among the Twelve. This may come as a surprise, but the disciples were probably all teenagers during Jesus’ earthly ministry (learn more about that here). Peter wasn’t just older; he was more outspoken too. He spoke on behalf of the disciples often. If you read about an occurrence in the Gospels involving Jesus and the Twelve, Peter probably says something. Peter didn’t necessarily speak on behalf of the others because he was the wisest; he was just impulsive. He did provide excellent leadership and humility, despite his impulsiveness.

Peter was married.

According to Mark 1:30, Peter had a wife, because the verse mentions his mother-in-law. The Bible does not state his wife’s name, but you cannot have a mother-in-law without being lawfully wedded. The Bible doesn’t mention anything about his wife, nor does the Bible tell us whether or not they had children; however, external sources mention them having children and that Peter’s wife died as a martyr.

Peter had a job.

Simon Peter was not some homeless, unemployed guy that followed Jesus. He stayed busy in the family fishing business located in Capernaum. Matthew 2:18-22, at first, seems to indicate that Peter quit the fishing business altogether when Jesus called him; however, verses such as John 21:1-8 prove that Peter and the other disciples did not completely abandon their trades. They could have just been fishing for fun here, but I doubt it. It’s my understanding that Peter was bivocational during his time in ministry with Christ.

Was Peter a pope?

Many Roman Catholics promote the idea that Peter was the first bishop or pope of the Church. However, that’s not a belief the Bible promotes. That’s merely what Roman Catholic tradition teaches. This tradition derives from Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:16-19, where Jesus acknowledges Peter’s profession about Christ as the Son of God. A special office was not established here, nor did Christ ever say Peter alone would be the foundation or cheif shepherd for the Church. Instead, a complete ecclesiastical teaching understands God builds his church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone and head of the Church (cf. Eph. 2:19-21, Col. 1:18).

Peter made mistakes.

Most are familiar with Peter’s incident before Jesus’ crucifixion — Peter denies knowing Jesus three times before Jesus dies. All four of the Gospels record this event (Matt. 26:69-75, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:54-62, John 18:15-27). This is arguably Peter’s biggest mistake recorded in the Bible. Jesus warns about denying him — “Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33). Though Peter made mistakes, and fell short of the glory of God, as we all do (Rom. 3:23), Jesus chose him and restored him (John 21:15-19). Peter’s testimony is greatly encouraging. Reading about Peter’s impulsive behavior feels relatable. We’ve all acted on impulse before, and it’s gotten us into trouble. But God is a better Redeemer than we are sinners.

Peter walked on water… for a second.

I want to bring up a specific event in the Gospels that stood out to me in hopes of encouraging you. In Matthew 14:22-33, Jesus approaches the disciples by walking on water. The disciples were on a boat, far from the shore, and Jesus catches up with them by walking on the water! At first, they thought it was ghost or something demonic, so Peter tells Jesus to command him to walk on the water to him, and he does! Peter actually walked on water with Jesus, until Peter took his eyes off Jesus and noticed the wind and the waves, then he began to sink. Reaching out his hand, Jesus keeps Peter from sinking and they enter the boat together.

Reading about Peter’s interaction with Jesus here provided a great encouragement to me. I wish I could say that as long as we think about Jesus hard enough we will be able to walk on water, but that’s probably not legitimate. I mean, you could try it, but I don’t think you’ll have any luck. What this event revealed to me is that Jesus will meet us where we are. Jesus could have given Peter a harsh rebuke for his doubt, and made him swim back to the boat by himself, but Jesus extends his hand in the midst of Peter’s doubt. We all struggle with doubt. Jesus has proven himself as the Son of God. All creation bows down to him. We have every reason to trust Christ, but we take our eyes off him, and place them onto things in subjection to Christ. God knows we do this, and he doesn’t let us drown in those doubts; he extends a hand and sits with us on the boat.

Peter could preach.

The Apostle Peter is a significant, leading person in the Book of Acts next to the Apostle Paul. During my recent studies, I found Peter’s sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41) thought-provoking. Now, it intrigues me — as one who feels compelled to preach a lot — how his sermon was composed. It’s common to hear preachers deliver sermons that are saturated with stories about themselves. Peter’s sermon wasn’t. It was saturated with the Bible. And thousands of people got saved and many baptized.

Peter’s sermon at Pentecost includes quotations from the Prophet Joel (Joel 2:28–32) and King David (Psalm 16:8–11; Psalm 110:1). He could’ve used relatable, funny stories from his past to help people get comfortable, but he gave them truth from the Old Testament. “And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’ So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:40–41).

Now, if you know me, I love hearing a good relatable story in a sermon. I don’t have any conviction that preachers should not share personal experiences in order to help people to connect better. In fact, I’ve shared stories in sermons I’ve preached. Only, faithful preachers do not rely on their own stories to change lives. The power to save is in the power of God’s Word.

Peter devoted himself to God’s work.

Not only can you find sermons by Peter in the Book of Acts, you also find him evangelizing and church planting. One event that stood out to me recently is found in Acts 8:14-17. Peter and John heard about new believers in Samaria receiving the gospel, so Peter and John made a trip to go see the Church and equip them.

This kind of an act from the Apostles is worth noting. When we typically hear about God working somewhere, we might tweet about it, talk about it with our friends, or even pray and thank God for it, but rarely do we travel to visit a work. Furthermore, the Apostles weren’t allowing their time to be consumed by the other Apostles and church elders. They got around all believers and took part in equipping the people up-close. This showed me how the Apostle Peter truly loved God and involved himself in God’s work.

Peter died a martyr.

Tradition has it that Peter was martyred shortly after 2 Peter was composed. His death was foretold by Jesus in John 21:18-19. He died in Rome, upside down on a cross, sometime around AD 68. Reading about martyrdom is bittersweet to say the least. It’s sad to think about the torture and pain someone goes through for their commitment to God. On the other hand, it is a glorious thought — it is powerful, inspiring, motiviating, and praiseworthy. What could you possibly sacrifice that’s more valuable than your life? Peter, his wife, and his friends, all proved their love for God by sacrificing their lives.

This concludes part one of the Cephas Series. Check out “Simon Peter’s Epistles” here. Was this encouraging at all to you? Consider leaving a comment, sharing on social media, and becoming a blog partner today. Find hip quote graphics for this content on the Additional Sources page here.

One thought on “Simon Peter in the Gospels and Acts

  1. I appreciate that you take the Scriptures seriously. That is a helpful place to start. I too used to treat the Catholic faith dismissively. When I started letting the Church speak for itself, it got real different real fast. When you crack open the history between the last writings of the New Testament and the Nicene era, you start to see something very strange. The Church was Catholic from the beginning. You can see the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence in the New Testament, of course; but (and this is very important) you can see it in the understanding of the earliest Christians (showing what they were taught by the apostles). A striking example: Ignatius of Antioch in A.D. 107 writing to the church in Smyrna. Or Justin Martyr in A.D. 155 writing to the Caesar in Rome. This did not figure out the faith on their own. They received the faith. Keep taking Scripture seriously, and don’t be satisfied with subjectivity. As Saint Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15, the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. Can you say that about your particular tradition?