According to Matthew 4:18-20, “As [Jesus] was walking along the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. ‘Follow Me,’ He told them, “and I will make you fish for people!’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”
The fact that Jesus directed those words to a fisherman like Simon Peter-a rough-hewn, blue-collar type with no formal religious training and no elite position in Jewish society-says a lot about Jesus. He was not the type to surround himself with arrogant, status-obsessed priests and “experts” Old Testament law like those to whom the Jews looked for religious guidance. He chose to change the world through a different type of person.
Jesus’ call to discipleship also says something about Simon Peter. Jesus saw something in him that no one else-not even Peter himself-could see. Jesus saw Peter’s potential. He looked past his exterior, his penchant for making rash decision and folding under pressure, and into Peter’s heart. There he saw abilities and a spirit of willingness that were valuable to him. He focused on qualities he could work with, abilities he could mold.
That first seaside encounter is perhaps the only unremarkable reference to Simon Peter in the Gospels. For better or worse, the man’s personality leaps off the page of practically every Bible story that mentions him.
Simon Peter was a complex man. He proved himself to be courageous and loyal, yet capable of stunning lapses in judgment. His mercurial nature resulted in more than a few ups and downs in his relationship with Jesus. Yet if Simon Peter seems to be on the receiving end of more than his share of divine rebukes, it may be due to the fact that he dared to risk more than his fellow disciples.
Along with James and John, Simon Peter was part of Jesus’ inner circle-the companions to whom he turned for support at critical times. Even among that trio, Simon Peter stood out. He may have been Jesus’ best friend.
The New Testament contains more information about Peter than about the other 11 disciples combined. According to Matthew 8:14 and 1 Corinthians 9:5, for instance, Peter had a Christian wife who assisted him in his later missionary work. The Gospels mention nothing specific about the marital status of any other apostle.
In stories involving the disciples, Simon Peter is often at the center of the action. During the precarious crossing of the Sea of Galilee described in Matthew 14:22-23, only Simon Peter had the courage and desire to step out of the boat in the middle of a raging storm in order to walk on the water to Jesus.
When thoughts and questions occurred to him, Simon Peter didn’t spend a lot of time in deep contemplation over them. He simply blurted them out. Sometimes that earned him high praise from the Lord, as when he declared Jesus to be “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” in Matthew 16:16. Other times it put him in the proverbial doghouse, such as when he dared to object to Jesus’ prophecy of his impending death. Jesus’ sharp rebuke, “Get behind Me, Satan!” (Matt 16:23), likely affected him deeply.
Aside from Judas Iscariot, probably no other apostle experienced the kind of despair and self-loathing that Simon Peter did after denied knowing Jesus three times on the night the Lord was arrested and put on trial.
Yet Simon Peter didn’t stay down for long. After Jesus resurrection, he seized an opportunity to make amends with Jesus and restore their relationship. From that point on, the man was virtually unstoppable as a driving force in the first-century Christian movement. He fulfilled the destiny Jesus laid out for him in Matthew 16:18: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.”
Simon Peter boldly proclaimed Jesus’ message throughout the Jewish world-and later throughout the Gentile world-until his own death. According to church tradition, Simon Peter was crucified upside down because he didn’t believe he was worthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord.
MATTHEW 16:18 – “And I also to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.”