Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #1, Peter

Repentance of St. Peter by Jusepe de Ribera, Oil on canvas, Spain, 17th century, State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Holy Scripture identifies Peter the first of all the apostles, though Peter, a modest fisherman, never put himself first. In many ways the holy apostle is most like us, for his compound nature exposes him to be very human; he is passionate and loyal, cowardly and courageous.

Once called Simon, he was given the name Peter (meaning rock) by Jesus, who said of him, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” (Matthew I 6:13-19)

Jesus moreover told Peter at the Last Supper that he would deny him. Peter loved his master, yet that night, after Jesus’ arrest by the temple soldiers, a terrified Peter swore three times he did not know Jesus. Then he recalled Jesus’ prediction and was almost driven to misery for his timidity. Unlike Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, Peter deeply atoned and was pardoned.

Following the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his apostles. On one such occasion he was by the Sea of Galilee as they were out fishing. Identifying him, they swiftly turned their boat toward the shore. But Peter was too impatient and eager— spontaneously he jumped into the water and swam to his master. (John 21:1–8.) Whilst all the rest were filled with the greatest joy to see Jesus, Peter alone seems to have been driven by his brash heart.

Symbols of St. Peter, the Apostle: Keys, Cockerel at Holy Trinity Church, Hildersham, UK After Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles rousing them to preach the word of God, Peter and the others endangered their lives everyday going about their master’s work. In the Acts of the Apostles we discover that it wasn’t long before Peter was imprisoned, but as he lay asleep in his cell, an angel of the Lord came and liberated him.

The location of Peter and Andrew’s house is still marked today. A church was built on the site in A.D. 352. Later it was substituted by a basilica, and excavators unearthed two ancient fish hooks and a small axe for cutting stone. Possibly the fish hooks and axe belonged to Peter and his brother.

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