Peter the apostle is one of the most prominent characters in the Gospels, a rough and tumble man whose emotions often got him into trouble, and yet he was clearly one of the favorites of Jesus Christ, who loved him for his big heart.
Peter’s true name was Simon. With his brother Andrew, Simon was a follower of John the Baptist. When Andrew introduced Simon to Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus renamed Simon Cephas, an Aramaic word meaning “rock.” The Greek word for rock, “petros,” became this apostle’s new name, Peter. He is the only Peter mentioned in the New Testament.
His aggressiveness made Peter a natural spokesman for the twelve. Often, however, he spoke before he thought, and his words led to embarrassment.
Jesus included Peter in his inner circle when he took Peter, James, and John into the house of Jairus, where Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:35-43). Later, Peter was among those same disciples Jesus chose to witness the transfiguration(Matthew 17:1-9). Those same three saw Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33-42).
Most of us remember Peter for denying Christ three times during the night of Jesus’ trial. Following his resurrection, Jesus took special care to rehabilitate Peter and assure him he was forgiven.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled the apostles. Peter was so overcome that he began to preach to the crowd. Acts 2:41 tells us 3,000 people were converted that day. Through the remainder of that book, Peter and John were persecuted for their stand for Christ.
Early in his ministry, Simon Peter preached only to Jews, but God gave him a vision in Joppa of a huge sheet containing all types of animals, warning him not to call anything made by God impure. Peter then baptized the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household and understood that the gospel is for all people.
Tradition says that persecution of the first Christians in Jerusalem led Peter to Rome, where he spread the gospel to the fledgling church there. Legend has it that the Romans were going to crucify Peter, but he told them he was not worthy to be executed in the same manner as Jesus, so he was crucified upside down.