In the Beginning
While the Apostle Peter is a well known biblical figure and is featured prominently in many of today’s gospels and sermons, there was a time when he was known by another name. As this paper will show, there was a significant degree of foreshadowing in his life that indicates the intricacies of God’s plan for the Apostle and how even the most insignificant of individuals can be brought to greatness with the will of the Almighty.
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Simon the Fisherman
Prior to becoming the Apostle that he was known as today, Peter was actually known by the name Simon and was actually a fisherman within Bethsaida. While various different accounts of Peter’s life vary between him owning a fishing business or merely being a lowly fisherman, it is generally agreed that while he was known as Simon he had spent most of his time at at sea gathering fish to be sold at the local market (Schlumpe 2007, 24).
It should also be noted that Peter was actually partners with the sons of Zebedee (James and John) who would eventually also become the disciples of Jesus (Ehrman 2006, 1-50). By this point it can be assumed that it was not just a coincidence that all three future disciples of Jesus Christ were in the same business.
Considering the fact that there were quite literally hundreds of thousands of people within the regions that Jesus preached in at the time, it stands to reason that the selection of the Apostles was not a random act. In fact it could even be implied that prior to Jesus even meeting the Apostles they had already been selected.
For example, in Matthew 8: 14-17 as well as in Luke 4: 38 it was indicated that Jesus had healed a woman in a home in Capernaum. Further research showed that this woman was actually the mother-in-law of Peter.
Since the recorded acts of Jesus performing miracles are to be considered significant aspects in any bible study, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is indicative of a connection between Jesus and Peter that was already in place prior to their meeting by the sea (Ehrman 2006, 1-50). This is particularly important to take into consideration given the call to action that he would receive from Jesus in Matthew 4: 18-19.
In this part of the Gospel of Matthew it can be seen that Peter is called to become a “fisher of men” at which point he drops his nets and along with James and John become the first disciples of Jesus.
It is the precise words utilized by Jesus and the fact that there was an already established connection between the two prior to the meeting by the sea that shows the full culmination of the earlier level of foreshadowing regarding Peter’s future role (Ehrman 2006, 1-50).
Why did Peter Join Jesus?
What few people seem to realize is that Peter at the time had a very moderate income given his career and the amount of competition from other fishermen within the area. As such, Peter was not financially well off and it seemed as if he was not in a position where he could arbitrarily leave. In order examine how someone could leave their job with few problems an investigation of the life of Peter at the time was conducted.
It was revealed that various bible scholars have indicated that at the time Peter was actually a widower, as evidenced by the Cor. 1 9:5. Furthermore, it was mentioned earlier within this paper that Jesus had healed the mother-in-law of Peter of an illness (Quinn 2011, 10). An investigation into the customs of this particular time period revealed close family ties especially those in small fishing communities.
It is based on this that it comes as no surprise that Peter may in fact have cared for his mother-in-law from time to time. Since Jesus had healed her of what was apparently a debilitating condition a certain degree of indebtedness would have occurred (Ferda 2012, 421-457).
Other accounts such as those within Luke 5: 4-11 indicate that once Jesus performed the miracle of filling the nets of Simon, James and John with fish, it was at that moment that Peter in wonderment accepted the call of Jesus. Going over these particular accounts it can be stated that it was a combination of indebtedness and wonderment that caused Peter to become the disciple of Jesus.
Becoming “The Rock”
The pivotal moment in Simon’s discipleship can be seen in Matthew 16: 13-20 when Jesus asks his disciples who they believe that the Son of Man is and who do they say that he is. In this instance, Simon gave the now famous answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. It was at this point that Jesus imparted him with the name “Peter” which translates into “rock”.
Christ then went on to state that he was the rock upon which his church would be built. Going along the same level of foreshadowing that was seen in the earlier section, it is quite interesting to note that the Vatican Cathedral which is the symbol of the current seat of power of the Church actually rests above an area where the bones of Peter are kept.
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As such, in this instance Peter literally became “the rock” which the symbol of Christ’s church on this plane of existence was built (Quinn 2011, 10). In a none literal sense, it should also be noted that Peter was one of the most ardent Apostles of Jesus and spread his message of love and hope far and wide. It was through his guidance that the early church was established and became what it is today (Quinn 2011, 10).
Thus, from another perspective it can be stated that Peter acted as the base from which the early chose rose into prominence eventually gathering billions of followers at the present. From a certain perspective it can be stated that Peter was “the rock” both literally and figuratively from which the church was built and established (Schlumpe 2007, 24).
Overall, it can be seen that a certain degree of foreboding was inherent in Peter’s life both before and during his discipleship. It was as if his call to become an Apostle of Christ was predestinated (which it very well might have been).
What people can learn from this is that even those in humble positions in live, in this case a fisherman, can be elevated to greatness once God is involved in crafting your life into something bigger than yourself.
The Discipleship of Peter
When examining the gospels surrounding Peter’s discipleship to Jesus, there are three distinct points of interest that arise which can be considered pivotal moments in the life of Peter, these involve his attempt to walk on water with Jesus, Jesus washing his feet and finally comes his denial of Jesus.
While it may be true that there are numerous instances that detail the life of Peter from the gospel accounts, these standout the most since they show both the strength and weakness of his faith in Christ.
Walking on Water
In the Gospel of Matthew 14: 28-31 it was seen that Peter and the other disciples were on a boat within the middle of the sea yet were apparently approached by Jesus as he began to walk on water towards them. Jesus actually beckoned them to come towards him and it was Peter who initially tried to approach Christ while trying to also walk on water.
Initially, he was successful however fear gripped his heart until he slowly sunk below the water. At the last minute, he was saved by Jesus who proclaimed that it was the weakness of this faith that caused him to sink. This particular story is pivotal in understanding the discipleship of Peter since it shows that there was a measure of doubt in his faith (Schlumpe 2007, 24).
It shows that even the most devout have moments of weakness which are not easily swayed which causes them to sink. What you have to take into consideration is that it was at this time that Peter had been proclaimed as the “representative/ head of the disciples”.
Yet, what you have to take into consideration is that various biblical scholars have indicated that events prior to Jesus walking on water indicated that the position of being first among the disciples had actually created in Peter a certain degree of arrogance. This was evidenced by Peter’s general disposition towards the disciples at the time wherein he continuously emphasized his closeness to Jesus.
It is based on this that incident of Jesus walking on water may have been way in which Christ helped to humble Peter by showing just how weak his faith really was. Combined with the fact that it was done in front of the other disciples helped to reel in Peter’s adverse behavior and to set him on the proper path towards discipleship.
Jesus Washing the Feet of Peter
In John 13: 2-11 a scene is shown where Jesus washes his disciples feet yet Peter at first does not want to Christ to do it since it is an act fit only for a servant. This scene is considered pivotal in the life of Peter since in it, he is shown what it means to be a leader.
Peter had already been indicated by Christ as the rock from which his church would be built, however, it was necessary at this point in time to impart to Peter the necessary lessons of what it means to be a true leader. As Christ explained within the bible “those who want be first shall be made last while those who serve as last shall be made first”.
In this particular case this is Jesus teaching Peter what it means to be a leader that truly serves those under him. Not by implying that he is the best among them, rather, it is through service and dedication.
This is particularly important given the early indications regarding Peter’s arrogance due to being chosen first out of the disciples (Grant 1995, 1 – 24). This was Christ’s way of setting Peter on the right path towards becoming the foundation of his church and in so doing ensure the salvation of mankind as indicated by various Christian text on the issue..
The Denial of Peter
In Matthew 26: 33-35 and Mark 14: 29-31 a prediction was made by Jesus that Peter would deny him 3 times, at which point Peter said that he would stand by Jesus no matter what. Unfortunately, as mentioned before there has always been a certain level of foreboding when it comes to the live of Peter and in this instance there was no exception. On the very night Jesus proclaimed that Peter would deny him Peter did exactly that.
When examining the denial of Peter of Jesus, it is necessary to determine why Peter would do so give his faith in Christ and his martyrdom a few years later. If he had faith in Christ before he denied him and died for the sake of Christ after a few years what had occurred in between in order to cause this apparent lack of faith.
First and foremost, what you have to understand is that on the night that Peter denied Jesus, Jesus had in fact been recently arrested and soldiers at the time were seeking out the followers and supporters of Jesus (Ferda 2012, 421-457).
This would of course instill a certain level of fear in anyone, as such it is not surprising that in order to avoid capture Peter would deny any association with Jesus. Such an incident though does not explain why Peter would so willingly give up his life later on for the sake the early church.
What you have to understand is that in between the period that Peter was martyred and the time he denied Christ, he was actually exposed to the powers of the Holy Spirit when he, Mary and the other Apostles were together in a room praying (Wells 2006, 106-108). It was at this instance that Peter received the confidence, belief and desire to continue the work of Jesus no matter what the cost.
The descent of the Holy Spirit among Peter and the Apostles was actually another of the most pivotal moments in Peter’s life, the reason I state this is due to the fact that through the Holy Spirit Peter and the other Apostles were given the gift of tongues (i.e. what they said could be understood by others in their native language) and were infused by the power of the Holy Spirit in order for them to spread the message of Christ (Grant 1995, 1 – 24).
Without such gifts it is doubtful that Peter and the other Apostles would have had the capability or the perseverance to accomplish what they did.
Based on what has been presented so far regarding the life of Peter, it can be seen that just like any one of us he had moments of weakness, a distinct lack of faith and even a degree of arrogance. Despite such failings, he was still considered an adequate scion on Earth for Jesus Christ.
It is based on the story of Saint Peter that all of us can aspire to overcome our weaknesses and become more than what we are. Even though faith is at times fragile, it is what is done after one’s faith is broken that defines their strength.
Death and Legacy
While Peter and the Apostles were anointed by Jesus Christ and given the gift of tongues by the Holy Spirit, they were still unfortunately men and, as such, they were vulnerable to a variety of external forces that sought to destroy the early church.
It is rather unfortunate; however, Peter himself died a martyr for the cause of early the church. Despite his death, through the actions of Saint Peter the early church was able to sufficiently spread and establish itself to such an extent that it eventually it became the official religion of the Roman Empire (Wells 2006, 106-108).
Role in the Early Church
As seen in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter was instrumental in the creation of the early church to the extent that he represented the Apostles on numerous occasions, helped to push through acceptance of the Gentiles within the church as well as lead the early church through its initial development.
Many of the initial rules and rituals that helped to define the Catholic Church as well know of it today were created by Peter in response to not only the needs of the followers of the early church but also in reaction to the various external difficulties they faced.
For example, the concept of charity, sharing and loving your fellow man that were initially taught by Christ was further enhanced by Peter and the other Apostles wherein they helped to distribute monetary resources and goods among members of the early church community in order to help those in need.
Journeying from Caesarea, Joppa and Lydda, Peter had preached the teachings of Jesus Christ and corresponded with many individuals across the region encouraging them to become followers of Christ (Grant 1995, 1 – 24).
Through his initial actions and the spread of his message of hope and peace, Peter brought many new followers into the early church and helped to expand its influence beyond the regions of Bethlehem, Judea, and Jerusalem. In fact, through the initial efforts of Peter and the Apostles the message of Christ extended so far as to even encapsulate various areas of the Roman Empire and even Rome itself (Ferda 2012, 421-457).
It is rather unfortunately though that it was due to such efforts that the Roman Empire took notice of Christianity and began persecuting it.
Even then, through the guidance of Peter and the other Apostles the early Christian population was able to utilize various means of hiding themselves from the Romans in the form of utilizing various symbols, secret meetings and other forms devised by Peter in order for them to continue practicing their faith.
Death of Peter
In relation to the persecution of Christian population in Rome, Peter’s crucifixion actually took place on October 13 A.D. 64 which was meant to coincide with the Roman Regnal Day Anniversary.
Peter’s crucifixion was actually due to the fact that the great fire in Rome that had devastated the capital was actually blamed by Emperor Nero on the relatively small Christian population at the time since they acted as a convenient scapegoat.
As a result, Peter was crucified upside down by his executioners in what they perceived as the most painful way possible. It is quite interesting to note that the upside down cross has at times been associated with Satanic worship wherein numerous death metal and heavy metal bands have used it in one form or another in order to spark controversy in their performance.
Strangely, if this were true then why is it that there is an upside down cross on the very seat of the Pope whenever he conducts a mass? In reality the upside down cross is a symbol for Peter since unlike Jesus he was crucified upside down by Romans (Wells 2006, 106-108). This was actually a request on the part of Peter since he actually did not consider himself worthy enough to be crucified in the same manner as Christ.
As such, his final days were marked by torture, slave labor and finally crucifixion. Interestingly enough, within the New Testament Jesus actually said the following line to Peter “and you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead to where you do not want to go” (Wells 2006, 106-108).
Many biblical scholars have indicated that this particular statement was actually a method of foreboding wherein Jesus was actually foretelling Peter of his future demise. Considering the fact that a crucifixion usually involves a person’s hands being stretched and someone else dressing them, this particular statement of Jesus is thus considered as his way of telling Peter what to expect within the next few years.
This is actually in keeping with the apparent foreboding that followed various aspects of Peter’s life throughout the years as seen in the case of him initially being a fisherman then becoming a fisher of men as well as in the case of Jesus telling Peter that he would deny Jesus 3 times.
Legacy of Saint Peter
The legacy of Saint Peter can be seen at the present through the numerous churches, followers and influences that the Catholic Church has in the world today. Without the initial efforts of Saint Peter in guiding and establishing the church, history as we know of it today would have taken a distinctly drastic turn of events.
Today, Catholicism spans numerous countries, up to a billion devotees and has given rise to numerous charitable organizations resulting in the creation of better social institutions for the poor. The impact of the message of Christ can clearly be felt at the present as seen through its numerous influences in the creation of numerous laws, human rights as well as the establishment of various countries around the world.
Countries such as the U.S. and the Philippines would not have been created were it not for the religious fervor that accompanied the various explorers to their shores all those years ago.
From the various accounts presented it can be seen that the life of Saint Peter was heavily influenced and guided by God. In fact, it could even be considered that he was an instrument of God’s will considering the sheer amount of coincidences that occurred in his life that had a considerable level of foreshadowing.
However, the end result was the creation of a religious community that has lasted for hundreds of years which has spawned numerous charitable organizations that have helped to feed the hungry and help the poor. All in all, it is the number of people that the church has helped over the years that is the true legacy of Saint Peter.
Ehrman, Bart D. 2006. Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: the followers of Jesus in history and legend. n.p.: Oxford University Press, 2006. Public Library Core Collection: Nonfiction (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost .
Ferda, Tucker S. 2012. “The Seventy Faces of Peter’s Confession: Matt. 16:16-17 in the History of Interpretation.” Biblical Interpretation 20, no. 4/5: 421-457. Literary Reference Center, EBSCOhost .
Grant, Michael. 1995. Saint Peter: a biography. United States of America: Scribner, 1995. Public Library Core Collection: Nonfiction (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost .
Quinn, Peter A. 2011. “Catholics At Work.” America 204, no. 8: 10. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost .
Schlumpe, H. (2007). The Peter principle: What the impetuous apostle can teach today’s Catholics. U.S. Catholic, 72(9), 24.
Wells, Philip P. 2006. “THE LIFE OF ST. PETER THE APOSTLE.” In Bible Stories & Religious Classics, 103-108. n.p.: Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, 2006. Literary Reference Center, EBSCOhost