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In Search of the Apostles 'Simon Peter' (part 1)

Updated on September 3, 2016
lawrence01 profile image

Loving God and loving mankind is an important part of who I am, in these hubs we explore what it's like to really follow Jesus.

'Simon' or 'Peter'?

Painting by Peter Paul Reubens
Painting by Peter Paul Reubens | Source

A favorite of many

Ask anyone for the names of Bible characters and probably one of the first two they'll give you is the name 'Peter' one of the most loved characters in the whole book, and one we can all identify with in some way or other!

Maybe it's the 'bravado' he shows at times making big bold statements about how he'll defend Jesus "Even unto death!" Or when he's been out fishing all night and Jesus tells him to do something he doesn't want to, but because it's Jesus, he does it and gets a boatload of fish, we all have a favorite story about him.

Everyone has a favorite story of Peter

Everyone has a 'favorite' story of Peter, which one's yours?

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Who was he really?

From a previous hub, we know Peter was Andrew's older brother and earned his living by fishing on the Sea of Galilee. When we first encounter him Andrew and he are working on their boat, one gospel has it that they'd been out all night and caught nothing, then along comes this carpenter from nearby Nazareth.

"Throw your nets over the other side!" Jesus shouts.

"What the heck does he know about fishing" you can almost hear him say under his breath, but before he says anything out loud Andrew stops him in his tracks.

"Simon" Andrew says quietly, "that's the one I told you about! The Messiah"

"Yeah right," he thinks but then "Listen bud" he yells, "we've caught nothing all flipping night, but as he says you're special" nodding towards Andrew who's got a grin from ear to ear, "why not" and over the net goes. Just a few seconds later the nets full and bursting, the boat nearly gets holed as Simon's jaw drops to the deck and they have to call for help just to 'land the catch'

Okay, I know there's some 'artistic' license taken, but all four Gospels have the story of the calling of the first four disciples, and John has this particular story after the resurrection, but all four of them have a story, and one of the Gospels is actually Simon telling it 'in his own words'

Read the story in Simon’s own words in Mark chapter 1 verse 16 to 21, or Matthew 4 verse 18-22 or there’s a longer version in Luke 5 verses 1-11

Interestingly in Luke Jesus sort of borrows the boat for an ‘impromptu’ sermon and then tells the boys afterwards to throw the net into the water for some fish! John says this event happened after the resurrection!

What’s interesting is that whatever happened that morning was enough for four pretty gruff fishermen to throw down their nets and follow this itinerant preacher, and to make things more interesting we find that Simon was actually married and had a family to feed!

Jesus takes care of Peter's family

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out

'Call and provision'

Was it the time by the sea that convinced Simon to follow Jesus? Was it what Andrew had said? Or was it something much more practical? That Jesus had come into his home, seen a need and healed someone?

What about the catch of fish?

Remember there was no ‘social security’ in those days, you either worked or you starved, yet Jesus was telling them to leave their work behind, who was going to look after the family? A huge catch like that would go a long way to helping them live for the next few years. Maybe that’s why Luke put the story in, to show that when Jesus calls he also provides for that call!

Peter's village

Capernum as it looks today. Overlooking the ancient village on the North shore of Galilee
Capernum as it looks today. Overlooking the ancient village on the North shore of Galilee | Source

What's in a name?

Remember the passage where Jesus gives a new name to 'Simon'? He'd just worked out that Jesus wasn't some 'Great prophet' like the prophets of old, and he wasn't some great teacher but really was the promised Messiah and from God.

Jesus turns it round by renaming Simon to 'Peter' or 'Cephas' then makes a statement that the church has been arguing over for the last two thousand years!

Is it the man 'Cephas' on which the church is built, or is it the 'statement' (Cephas or rock) on which the church is built? I'll leave you to think on that one, but there is something really important there.

In Arab and Jewish culture even today your name is important as it describes who you are, or whom your parents want you to be, it describes the character traits they want so much to see in their child. As such the name is one of the most important gifts that anyone can give you!

Classic example ‘A boy named Sue’?

When ‘Sue’ finally meets his dad, dad tells him these words

“So I gave you that name, and said goodbye.

I knew you’d either have to get tough or die

And it’s that name that helped to make you strong”

‘Simon’ comes from the Hebrew ‘Simeon’ or ‘Shimon’ as they pronounce it and literally means “He has heard” (meaning God) even in the modern language it still carries that meaning and is linked to the word “Shama” or “Hear” as in the proclamation. “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one God” (Deuteronomy 6 verse 4 known as ‘The Shema’),

That’s whom Simon’s parents wanted him to be, one who would listen to the call of God and answer. Jesus had other ideas of what he would become; he changed the name to ‘Peter’ or ‘Petros’ (Arabic ‘Boutros’) meaning a stone or a rock!

Some of the gospels use the name ‘Cephas’ which is apparently the Aramaic equivalent and is used by some scholars to suggest that behind the translations of the Bible we have and the ancient Greek manuscripts there may be even older Aramaic writings that have been lost to us over time.

Was it the name that helped make the man?

What do you think?

Can something as simple as a name help shape you and your destiny?

See results

Jesus changes his name

Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter (Petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Here's a challenge

Before you go on with the rest of the hub. Think of all the names that you're known by, not just the name that you were born with, (though they are as important as any you 'claimed' for yourself as they were what your parents wanted you to be!) but all of them, nicknames, even the little names your spouse calls you, do they describe you?

I lived a while in the Middle East and when I was there a lot of the people there didn't like to use western names (though with a name like 'Lawrence' some countries loved that name and I was an instant friend!) so in Egypt they gave me an 'Egyptian name'. I went by the name of 'Tariq' which literally means 'one who knocks' or basically a pretty forceful character!

I wasn't too sure about the name but things would happen and I'd react to them in my own way and the Egyptians would just burst out laughing as I was reacting exactly the way a 'Tariq' would! Apparently it was an appropriate name for me and I still love it!

But what about you, does your name describe something about your character? I bet it does, even if you don't see it at the time!

Some of the Christian friends I had in the Middle East used to tell me I was like Peter too, and when I strongly disagreed with them (who really likes to think of Peter's denial of Jesus and realize they're just like him) they'd howl with laughter as that's exactly how they saw Peter reacting!

Mark 14 verses 27-31

27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:

“‘I will strike the shepherd,

and the sheep will be scattered.’[d]

28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”

30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice[e] you yourself will disown me three times.”

31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.

That's all for now.

When I started this hub I thought that I'd get through Simon Peter's life in the one 'hub' and move on, but part of the reason for the series is to see what we can learn from the early followers of Jesus and Simon Peter has so much to tell us that it just wouldn't be right to 'rush off' and force things so I'm going to stop here and let people have some input about it.

Truth is the book that these accounts are taken from was written down with the sole purpose of changing lives, and that's what it's all about for me, as we look at how they responded and see that if Jesus could use simple hardworking folks like Peter, with all his faults and as outspoken as he was, then maybe he can use us too?

Leave a thought below



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    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I knew some of us would like the song. I'm not totally surprised what you say about your daughter and Capernaum, I think that's why the idea of 'Pilgrimage' has been so popular through the ages, there's something about seeing the places where events happened that helps you connect with them.

      Glad you enjoyed the hub.


    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 17 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Ah, Yes - A Boy Named Sue. Now that takes back a few years. But you made your point. My daughter was in Israel a few months back and toured Capernaum and sailed on the Sea of Galilee. She said it changed her perspective forever. Peter was quite a fellow. Thanks for highlighting him here.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I think that the way it's referred to in Mark's Gospel is precious, Jesus says "Go tell my disciples, AND make sure you tell Peter!" and remember it's Peter told the story to John Mark! It's almost as if Peter is saying "He even remembered ME!"

      I realized as I was writing the hub that there was just too much to fit into one hub, even then we'll only just 'scratch the surface'.

      There will be a 'Chapter 2' in the series.



    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence - My favorite story of Peter is actually his denial of Jesus, and then the love returned to him by our Savior. The two are intertwined and can't be separated. Peter was loud and larger than life. Boastful. On the night that he betrayed Jesus, something changed. Something died. It was a conversion-like moment for Peter, a turning point. Peter’s own bold confidence and strength were killed.

      At that moment everything about Peter, his entire being depended on Jesus – His Lord and Savior. His self-reliance left him. To me that is the defining moment when Simon (he has heard) became Peter (the rock).

      I hope you will not only continue this series, but that you will write more (Chapter 2?) about Simon Peter. You've just scratched the surface.

      Thank you for a wonderful Hub.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I really enjoyed writing the hub like this, a bit of teaching and a bit from personal experience. 'A boy named Sue' is one of my all time favorite songs.


    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 17 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      I love the way you've written this, it's great. Blessings to you.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Yeah, that's another amazing story. And you're right, the Peter we meet in the writings later isn't so much the hot-headed one we meet at the beginning of the Gospel story.


    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I think your son got it right in some ways, modern scholars often take the view that while the events are historical they aren't necessarily 'chronological' and the writers arrange them in the ways they do often to make Theological statements through the story.

      I used the story of Peter and the boatload of fish, but there's also the story of the cleansing of the Temple (three accounts have it as Jesus enters Jerusalem in the final week of his life, but John puts it right at the beginning of his ministry, some three years before!)

      Glad I got you thinking.


    • justthemessenger profile image

      James C Moore 17 months ago from The Great Midwest

      It's always good to discover things about biblical people. As for my favorite Peter episode, I'm partial to when he cut off a soldier's ear and Jesus healed the man's ear on the spot. I also appreciated his growth throughout the scriptures. He didn't remain a hot head.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 17 months ago from San Diego California

      On the four separate accounts of the nets full of fish my son made an interesting point the other night, and although it has nothing to do with Christianity at all I think it is relevant. He told me that our memories are so inaccurate because we don't remember when the actual event occurred, but we remember when we remembered it. This could be why we have the same gospel account set in four different sets of circumstances in four different gospels. It is not that the event did not occur, it is that its authors could not agree on when exactly it happened.

      As for your poll, my favorite story of Peter is the time he tried to walk on water and instead sunk into the Sea of Galilee. This story demonstrates that Peter was either the best or the worst of the disciples at any given moment. There was no happy medium with him.

      On the subject of names, I think that names are our handles. When Jesus cast out demons, he commanded the demons to give him their name first. Even in modern exorcism, the priest has to get the name from the evil entity before he can cast it out. Sounds crazy, but I believe that our names are what binds us to the cosmos, hence the pomp and ceremony surrounding the christening of babies and the like. This is when the names of the infants are officially revealed to all of creation.

      Your apostle articles always get me thinking out loud. Sorry for rambling. Great job.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I think we already have.


    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I forgot about that story, thank you for the reminder, I always think that Peter at least had the courage to step out on the water. There were eleven other disciples still in the boat (they never got to walk on water!).

      I'd agree about the 'warm and fuzzy'



    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I'm glad the story 'spoke' to you, even if it was an 'interesting' approach. Actually, it's something that we Westerners don't normally think about, but the Eastern mind picks up on this all the time!



    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 17 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Always an interesting read, Lawrence.

      William is stuffy. Bill is friendly. Billy is playful. William D. is officious.

      You choose! :)

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Well definitely for me it is the walking on water because it illustrates how faith allows for miracles and doubt does not. Cephas is cool. I also like his change of heart showing us to have that ability, when he argued with Paul.

      My name is Eric with a c. That is warm and fuzzy. Erick with a ck is not. I am more warm and fuzzy.

    • Paladin_ profile image

      Paladin_ 17 months ago from Michigan, USA

      With your notion of the name 'making' the man (including a quirky Johnny Cash reference), you've taken a quite interesting approach to Simon Peter's story, Tariq! ;-)

      Looking forward to part 2.