Peter in the Bible

Peter in the Bible

He is first identified as Simon called Peter, also called Cephas, in the Gospels. A poor fisherman, but feisty and full of fight, Peter heard the calling of Jesus/Yeshua and dropped everything.

Peter is often remembered as the man who betrayed Jesus three times. But, he is also the only man who, upon hearing the Master’s calling, got out of the boat on the Sea of Galilee and walked on water. He is the man who was told by Jesus: “Upon this rock I will build my church.”

Peter can be translated as “rock” or “stone,” but some may translate the name as precious stone, or perhaps jewel.

Peter the first to declare Jesus is the Messiah

Peter is the first disciple to declare that Jesus is the Messiah that all of the Jews had been anxiously awaiting for centuries. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus questions His disciples, asking them “Who do people say I am?” Peter is quick to reply “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Interestingly, Jesus did not prompt him, or give away the answer to that question. Peter knew it, however, because God had revealed it to him. Jesus replies:

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 Cephas (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.”

Peter was a man of action

Peter is an interesting character. He was a married man and Jesus actually came to his house and healed his mother in-law. He was ready for a fight, wanting a fight, the man who drew his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane and cut off the ear of one of the guards trying to arrest Jesus.

Peter is a man of action and the first of the disciples to go to the empty tomb after the resurrection.

Peter proclaims Christ has risen

Prior to His ascension, Jesus promises to send a counselor, the Holy Spirit. After the Pentecost, it is Holy Spirit power that enables Peter to overcome his earthy fears and boldly proclaims the risen Christ to the Jewish authorities and anyone else within earshot.

It is a completely different man from the one who, afraid of rejection and being arrested, denies Christ and goes into hiding. He was also the one who offers to protect and die for Jesus/Yeshua, yet he buckles when even asked if he knows the man.

But he is also the man handpicked by Christ to lead the new movement. Peter grows in the faith and in influence. He appeared before the Sanhedrin on two occasions and on both openly defied the Jewish religious leaders, proclaiming the risen Christ.

Peter hand-picked by Christ to lead His movement

He was a major player in the early church. Jesus handpicked Peter to lead and had an interesting exchange with him, asking him three times, “Do you love me.”

The questions do not translate well into English, but in Greek, they are rather profound, because there are six words for love. The words used in the Bible are are Eros (attraction or passionate), Phila (brotherly love, friendship) and agape (love for everyone, unconditional love).

Eros, of course, is the attraction to another person, such as a man and woman falling in love. Phila, or brotherly love, applies to loving your neighbor. That is close to another word for love, phiilautia, which is love of self.

Agape comes closest to the kind of love God has for man. It is real, unconditional and long suffering. Jesus ask Peter, “Do you (eros) me?,” “Do you (phila) me?” and “Do you (agape) me?”

One way of looking at this questioning might be is Jesus asking Peter if he is attracted to His message, is Peter His friend and does Peter love Him completely? Peter answers in the affirmative all three times.

Jesus then tells him, “Feed my sheep.” Peter is given the mantle of leadership at that point. Jesus would then go home to His Father.

Peter is the first Pope in the Roman Catholic church

According to the Roman Catholic Church, Peter was the first Pope. But the Roman Catholic Church would not be established for another three centuries after his death. He was killed between 64-68 AD.

Peter Preaches to the Gentiles

Peter preaches to the gentiles
Peter Preaches to the Gentiles

What Happened

Prior to Paul’s conversion the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem. Jesus had told them to go out and proclaim the Gospel, the Good News, to every nation.

But the Apostles went nowhere. Paul, then called Saul, assisted as religious Jews murdered a young man named Stephen for boldly speaking out against the actions of the Jewish authorities.

That event led to the Apostles leaving town and spreading out. God gave Peter a vision that essentially tore down any division between Jews and Gentiles.

Emboldened by the Holy Spirit, Peter spoke publicly and stood up to the authorities. Not fearing prison, or execution, Peter went out and spread the news of Jesus, the Messiah.

Why it matters

Jesus did not come to put up barriers between people, but to unify and build a community. Jews and Gentiles did not associate with each other. Jews had strict laws about what foods to eat and how to live.

God showed Peter that all of that was no longer necessary. The vast majority of the world was Gentile, so to do the work that Jesus called him to do, Peter had to associate with the gentiles and accept them as brothers and sisters. In Christ there is no jew or gentile, only believers.

Bible Verse

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached

38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

Acts 10:34-38

Why it matters to you

People are reluctant to talk about matters of faith, for fear that they will be rejected, or worse yet, laughed at. Peter was too afraid to speak out, and too immersed in his Jewish heritage to fully understand what Jesus wanted him to do.

We all have doubts.

Jesus broke down the barriers for Peter and gave him freedom to speak out. The man who denied Jesus three times would become a bold and powerful Apostle. This same man was transformed into a powerful force for Jesus and the Kingdom.

He would not longer fear the Romans, the Jewish authorities and like Jesus, would give up his life for the Kingdom.


Peter had denied Jesus three times after He was arrested and bound over for trial. Fearing for his life, he denied being a disciple, or even knowing Jesus.

With the city in an uproar over the rial and crucifixion, and fearing Roman reprisals for any public display of faith, Peter and the rest of the disciples hid away.

But after receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter was no longer afraid and spoke boldly to Jews and gentiles alike about Jesus and the kingdom of God.

What you may not know

Jesus said that he would build his church upon this rock, referring to Peter. Actually, Peter more correctly translated, means pebble.

Three hundred years later, when the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, the headquarters of the church was moved to Rome, and thus the Roman Catholic Church was established.

Centuries later it was decided that Peter was the first pope, even though there was no formal church when he lived. As time went on after Jesus left the earth, the church would slowly form and traditions and practices would come about.

Peter did not say mass, or go to catechism. Also interestingly, Peter was Jewish not Roman.