19. Peter, Quite A Character


By Tim Dills

Meet Simon, a/k/a Cephas, a/k/a Peter

In John 1:44, Matthew 4:18-20, John 1:40-42 and Matthew 8:14, we learn that Simon was a married man from Bethsaida, a town whose name meant ‘house of the fisherman.’ He is referred to as Simon Bar-Jonah, which means ‘son of Jonah.’

He and his brother Andrew were fishermen who worked alongside James and John. Luke 5:1-11 details how he came to be involved with Jesus. When they met, Jesus renamed him Cephas, which translates to Peter.

Smooth Sailing and Rough Waters

After Peter began following Jesus, there are many highlights in his life. We also read about several low points. As he and others travelled with Jesus, recall some of the highlights and low-lights of Peter’s life. What do these things tell us about Peter’s personality?

The lowest moment of Peter’s life was his denial of Jesus prior to the crucifixion. Read the following.

‘Then Jesus told them, ‘This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’ Peter replied, ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.’ ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.’ Matthew 26:31-35

What words would you use to describe Peter in this passage? Now read the following.

‘Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee,’ she said. But he denied it before them all. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ He denied it again, with an oath: ‘I don’t know the man!’ After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, ‘Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.’ Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’ Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.’ Matthew 26:69-75

What words would you use to describe Peter in these verses?

At this dark moment, do you think Peter fully understood what was about to happen to Jesus? What drove Peter to deny Jesus?

Fishing Trip

After Jesus had risen from the grave and before His ascension the disciples seemed to not know where to turn. They reverted to their old ways; they went fishing. Read the following. ‘Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So, they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ So, Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ Again, Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!’ John 21:1-19

Is it significant that Peter is the one who made the decision to go fishing? If so, why?

The fishing excursion appeared to be a bust as no fish are caught. A ‘stranger’ though provided fishing advice to them. Why would these seasoned fishermen take the advice of someone they did not know?

John recognized this ‘stranger’ as Jesus. The group then steered the boat toward Jesus on the shore, but Peter literally abandoned ship.

How did Peter reach Jesus? What do these actions say about Peter?

Jesus built a fire then cooked breakfast for his followers. If you were to place yourself in Peter’s shoes at this time what things would be running through your mind?

Jesus eventually turned His attention to Peter. What question did Jesus ask Peter? Why did Jesus ask this question three times?

Do you think Peter’s answers were sincere or do you think he tried to provide answers he thought Jesus wanted to hear?

Why would Peter be grieved when Jesus asked him the same question the third time? Was this third question different in the original language? If so, in what way?

Jesus’s questioning of Peter took place in front of the other disciples gathered on this occasion. Why were they allowed to hear the conversation?

After the questioning, Jesus asked Peter to follow him just as He had in Luke 5. Share some of the things Peter did with his life after this fishing trip ended.

Was this Peter the same Peter we read about in Luke 5 or John 21? In what ways was he the same? In what ways was he different?

Closing Thoughts

We likely see some of Peter in our own lives. At times he acted without thinking about consequences. Other times he flat-out failed others. Sometimes he disappointed himself. Peter’s life though was more than his shortcomings. If you see yourself in some of the same unflattering ways, take heart and take note because Peter’s life going forward would be one dedicated to service for God.

Remember that in John 21 after each answer Peter provided to Jesus’s three questions, Jesus then called Peter to some action. Much of Peter’s service after this final fishing event can be found in the book of Acts proving Peter did not sit still, he got busy. We should strive to have the same heart.

While the remainder of Peter’s life would not always be easy his life speaks to us as an example of a worthy Christ-follower. Peter’s writings remind us how the God he served is the same God we serve and how our God is a God who gives us all we need to live this life faithfully, so we securely enter the eternal riches of the next life.

Read what Peter says about this.

‘His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ 2 Peter 1:3-11


"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

1 Corinthians 10:13