Peter was an apostle of Jesus. Peter is one of the most passionate, impetuous, and volatile characters in the Bible. As such, he was simultaneously capable of great triumph and enormous failure. Peter’s boundless enthusiasm was exceeded only by his love for his Master, Jesus.
Peter’s original name was Simon. However, Jesus liked to call him Cephas, an Aramaic word meaning “rock” or “stone,” which translated into Greek as “Peter.” During the course of Jesus’ ministry, Peter emerged as the natural leader among the disciples.
However, standing a head above the other disciples simply meant that Peter had further to fall—and he did. Immediately after his famous confession—which Jesus revealed was a result of divine enlightenment (see Matthew 16:17)—Peter proved equally adept at getting things wrong, contradicting Jesus’ prediction of His own death (Matthew 16:22).
Later, Peter confidently swore that he would stand with Jesus to the bitter end—that he would die with Jesus, if the need arose. Not for the first time, though, Peter had misunderstood the fundamental nature of Jesus’ ministry. When guards came to arrest Jesus, Peter reached for his sword and attacked the servant of the high priest. Peter believed the time had come to fight, not realizing that Jesus’ mission was to lay down His life. Most famously, Peter wound up disowning his Master three times, much to his own dismay.
Despite all of this, Jesus never gave up on Peter. According to Mark’s Gospel, the angel at the tomb mentioned Peter by name when he told the women to share the news of Jesus’ resurrection. Also, John recorded a particularly touching postresurrection scene in which Jesus restored Peter, entrusting to him the vital task of shepherding the early church.
According to tradition, Peter was crucified for his faith. Some interpreters read Jesus’ statement in John 21:18 (“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”) as a prediction of his martyrdom. Legend has it that Peter requested to be crucified upside down because he did not consider himself worthy of being killed in the same manner as Jesus.