The Bible reveals little about Peter’s life before he met Jesus. We know his name was also Simeon or Simon, that he lived in the Galilean town of Capernaum and was married (Matthew 8:14). It was here that he and Andrew, his brother, went into partnership with two other fishermen, James and John, the sons of Zebedee (Luke 5:10).
Andrew was already a disciple of John the Baptist and in John 1:41 he tells Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” He then introduces his brother to Jesus, who tells Peter: “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (Verse 42). Cephas is the Aramaic word for “stone” --- as is the Greek name Petros, translated into English as Peter. This is how Simon bar Jona came to be known as Peter.
Simon Peter’s spiritual journey, as his faith and conviction increased, is recorded in the Gospels. Following are some highlights experienced by Peter as he grew to become a fisher of men.
One day when Jesus had finished speaking to the crowd, He told Simon Peter to go further out into the lake where the water was deeper and to lower his fishing nets (Luke 5:4). At first Simon protested that he had fished all night and caught nothing, but then said, “Nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net” (Verse 5). Suddenly the net was so filled with fish that it was stretched to the point of breaking. Immediately Peter signalled to his partners, James and John, to bring the other boat. Soon both boats were so weighed down with fish they were in danger of sinking.
Surprised and humbled by this supernatural event, Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8). Jesus reassured the shaken fisherman: “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men” (Verse 10). From this point on, the fisherman Peter became a follower of Jesus. “So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him” (Verse 11).
Peter was also a witness to another miracle---the vision of the transfiguration of Jesus into His glorified state. “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him… A bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’” (Matthew 17:1-5).
This is the moment when God reveals to Peter, James and John that Jesus was much greater than Moses or Elijah---He was the very Son of God. Witnessing this momentous miracle so strengthened the Apostle Peter throughout His ministry that just before his martyrdom, he reminded his readers of this life-changing event in his final epistle: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18).
After Jesus and His apostles observed the Passover on the night before His crucifixion, they went out to the Mount of Olives, where Peter declares to Jesus, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’(Matthew 26:33-35). However, shortly after that declaration Peter denied Jesus three times, even as his Master was being beaten and humiliated in the high priest’s residence. As he was doing this he remembered Jesus had said to him, “‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So he went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:69-75).
Later, after Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected, He appears to His apostles (John 21) and Jesus questions Peter three times about his love and loyalty to Him. This no doubt reminded Peter he had earlier denied his association with Christ three times. After Peter assures Christ of His commitment. Jesus then tells Peter where his loyalty and faithfulness would lead: “ ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.’ This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me’ ” (John 21:18-19).
Not long after, on the Day of Pentecost, God gave His disciples the promise of the ages ---the gift of His Spirit (Acts 2:1-47). From that day on the Apostles were transformed men, willing to risk their lives for the sake of Jesus the Messiah. Peter, strengthened by the power of God’s Spirit, then delivered his sermon on that Pentecost with boldness and conviction, which characterized the remainder of his life--- a life dedicated to God and mankind.
Peter was a fisherman whom God remade into a fisher of men. Today we are also called to spread the Gospel to the world and often go against the grain of our societies’, neighbours’ and families’ beliefs. There is no greater privilege on the face of the earth, as a man called Peter learned.
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