As you may know, Peter was the first of the original 12 apostles to be martyred,
sometime around the year 69 A.D, in Rome.
Simon, son of John, was apparently born in or near Bethsaida as John 1:44 mentions
this was the hometown of Andrew and Peter. Bethsaida, located on the north shore
of the Sea of Galilee, means the house of the fisherman. It was a province of Galilee
and located just east of the Jordan River. Bethsaida was under the rule of Herod
Philip, a son of Herod the Great. Mostly wealthy Jews and Greeks inhabited the town.
Peter probably spoke Aramaic and some Greek. Prior to meeting Jesus, Peter lived
in the Galilean town of Capernaum. We also know that Peter was married for we have
the Gospel account, Matthew 8:14, of Jesus visiting Peter’s home and touching his
mother-in-law’s hand thus curing her of a fever. He and Andrew were in a partnership
fishing the Sea of Galilee with James and John.
Some Bible scholars believe Peter was called to be an Apostle in three stages. The
first stage is thought to be when he met Jesus for the first time. “Andrew, Simon
Peter’s brother, was one of the two disciples who had heard John and followed Jesus.
Andrew at once found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah.”
Andrew brought Simon to Jesus and Jesus looked at Simon and said, “You are Simon,
son of John. You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter) – Peter (from the Greek
word petros, meaning “a piece of rock”).” John 1:40-42.
The second stage is believed to be when Jesus was walking along the shore of the
Sea of Galilee. “Jesus saw two brothers; Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew
casting nets into the sea. Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make
you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew 4:19-20.
The third stage is believed to be when Jesus chose the Twelve Apostles. “One of
those days, Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying
to God. When morning came, He called His disciples together and chose twelve of
them, whom he also designated as apostles; Peter and Andrew his brother, James,
John, Phillip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon who
was called the Zealot, Judas (son of James), and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.”
When it comes to Peter’s missionary efforts, the first twelve chapters of Acts record
the exciting events of the initial years of the movement that began with Jesus’
command to make disciples throughout the world. Peter’s first sermon on the Day
of Pentecost seemed to open the floodgates of new believers, but the spread of the
gospel was at first limited to Jews and proselytes(those Gentiles who had become
“naturalized” Jews). God used Peter’s visit to a Roman soldier’s household to confirm
Jesus’ inclusion of people from every nation as candidates for the good news of
Peter’s ministry included not only the areas throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria,
but also Babylon and Rome. Traditional accounts for Peter’s travels focus primarily
on time spent in Babylon, to the east, or Rome, to the west. In support of Peter’s
ministry in Babylon, we have the apostle’s apparent location mentioned in 1 Peter
5:13, “She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark
my son.” The Eastern branch of the church believes that Peter was instrumental in
planting the gospel there. In support of Peter’s ministry in Rome, we have the obvious
case that he did end up in Rome and was martyred there. As to his founding the church
in Rome, we have little direct evidence.
We can imagine the sense of irony Simon Peter, the rock, must have felt as he wrote
these lines: “To whom coming, a living stone, cast away indeed as worthless by men,
but with God chosen, precious, yourselves also, as living stones, are being built
up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable
to God by Jesus Christ. Because it is contained in the scripture, ‘Behold I lay
in Zion a corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believes on Him shall not be
put to shame.’ “ 1 Peter 2:4-6
Given the obvious leadership role that Peter had among the disciples and in the
early church, it is interesting to see how faithfully the Gospels record Peter’s
failings and fumbling efforts. The disciples as a group neither comprehended what
Jesus was doing nor why, and it was Peter who usually made public their lack of
understanding. His impulsive nature allowed him to sometimes blurt out the truth,
but more often than not to state a misunderstanding. There are numerous accounts
of Peter’s faithlessness throughout the Gospels.
It has often been noted that when Jesus and Peter walked on the shore of Galilee
for the last time, the Lord not only reinstated His call on Peter’s life, but also
gave Peter an inkling of the end that awaited him. John 21:18-19
The Gospels writers could have easily shaped the stories of the ministry days with
Jesus in order to make the first leaders of the church more heroic. They resisted
that temptation. Instead, they gave us the truth – God’s Word. They gave us accounts
into which we can fit ourselves. The ordinary people who spent time with Jesus are
people with whom we can relate. The fact that they became apostolic witnesses simply
reminds us that God desires also to do something through us in order to bring glory
to His name.
Peter’s failings are treated as symptoms of man’s state of sinfulness or weakness
which can be overcome through faith in Jesus. Peter did just that because, after
Jesus’ resurrection, he travelled widely to preach Jesus’ message and convert people
to Christianity. In the Book of Acts, Peter is portrayed as a model disciple for
others to emulate.
Peter’s final days in Rome are not described in the Scriptures, but various traditional
accounts have survived. Reportedly he spent horrific months in the infamous Mamertine
Prison. Though manacled and mistreated, Peter survived the tortures and apparently
communicated the gospel effectively to his guards. Eventually he was hauled out
of the dungeon, taken to Nero’s Circus, and there crucified upside down.
It’s not where we go and what happens to us that matters all that much. What does
matter is how we respond when Jesus comes to us and says, “Follow me.” Do you have
the right attitude when it comes to following Christ? Peter had to lay down his
personal desires and selfishness. Humility in the life of the believer is the mark
of greatness – not because you shine when you are humbled, but because when you
submit to God’s will, He shines through you.
Perhaps you are faced with a difficult situation but don’t understand why God has
chosen that avenue for you. Allow Him to use this time in your life to teach you
how to be humble. Peter did just this. And he discovered that once humility accomplishes
it perfect work, God will exalt us at the proper time. 1 Peter 5:6 Blessing follows
the obedience of a humbled heart.