He was known as Simon, John’s son, but when Jesus met him for the first time, his name became Cephas (which means Peter.) Peter was the brother of Andrew, one of the first disciples chosen by Jesus.
He must’ve wondered what this Rabbi – this scholar – this supposed Messiah – would want with the likes of him. He was merely a common laborer; a fisherman by trade. Every day he’d rise before the sun and prepare for another day of physical work. This meant going out on the family fishing boat, setting his nets for the catch and waiting while basking in the heat of the day. He was one of many who made their living from the fruit of the Sea of Galilee.
There were the hours of waiting – growing hotter by the minute. Perhaps he’d jump into the cool water at times for a bit of refreshment. There were moments when it seemed there would be no success for the day and often there was none. There were the hours of patience he’d have to endure. Knowing what we do about Peter, this would be something he’d have to learn even more about when he joined Jesus’ band of disciples.
All those hours, sitting and waiting, not just for fish, but for the promised Messiah of God. His people knew the covenant made so many years ago. It seemed an eternity. Many had given up. There were those claiming to be the Savior, but they were soon debunked as ones trying to incite the crowds for political or personal reasons.
Throughout his time with Jesus, Peter was zealous for the cause. He didn’t hesitate to stand for this man/God. He didn’t always understand Jesus’ words. He didn’t always trust Jesus’ commands. His faith was hot or cold, like most of us. When things were moving smoothly, he went with the flow, but when trouble occurred, he jumped to conclusions or made foolish choices. Perhaps being a fisherman was precisely the kind of experience Jesus needed for his ministry. He did talk about being fishers of men after all.
Fishermen were considered low class citizens, because of their raucous lifestyle and often foul language. They were tough under pressure, especially when faced with windstorms that could capsize a small fishing boat. Paul’s occupation tended to make him outspoken, Johnny on the spot and strong and boisterous in his convictions.
Peter often put his foot in his mouth. Later, as Jesus prepared for His own death, Peter would claim to stand by Him up until the end, yet he betrayed Jesus three times when push came to shove. We are often like that too, aren’t we? We stand on God’s Word and promises, yet when it comes down to it, we often lose our courage.
When Jesus approached him that day, to become part of his nomadic group, he had no reason to change his lifestyle. He was satisfied doing what he did, but there was something about this man that captivated him. Jesus said, “Follow me,” and Peter followed willingly, leaving his wife, goods and business behind.
Like us, Peter was a sinner in need of a Savior. The fact that he had the opportunity to walk with and learn from the Son of God, was the most important factor in his life. This should be our walk too. We all have our moments of weakness and doubt, yet we have a Savior who looks beyond our failings. Peter’s sins, including his betrayal, were forgiven and so are ours. We can count on it.
When Peter took on his own cross to his martyr death, he insisted that the cross be turned upside down, because he would not die as Jesusndid. He was just a man, but Jesus was more than that. He was God in the flesh and Peter knew that.