Questions and observations for discussion:
1. What are the basic facts about Peter’s background?
Peter is most likely the best known disciple of Jesus, a Galilean fisherman, the brother of Andrew (Mark 1:16-20) and the son of a certain John according to John 21:15 or Jonah according to Mat 16:17. The latter has been interpreted as a descriptive title indicating him as an ‘extremist’ rather than who his father was, or it may be a variant form for John. Apart from the prophet of the name ‘Jonah’ this name does not occur as a person’s name centuries before and after this time.
There are actually four names used for him in the N.T. The Hebrew form Symeon of the Greek form Simon, occurs only in Acts 15:14. Simon occurs over forty times. This has been taken to reflect that the Greek form was his original name. Given the strong Hellenistic influence around Galilee, it suggests that he may have been bi-lingual. In John 1:42 it is Jesus who gives him the Aramaic name Cephas, which means Peter or ‘rock.’
It is clear that Peter was married (Mark 1:30) and we hear that his wife accompanied him later on his missionary journeys (1 Cor 9:5).
2. What were the initial circumstances of Peter’s call to discipleship? Did it start in Judea around John the Baptist’s ministry, or did it start with Jesus’ call on the shores of Galilee?
According to John 1:35-42 Andrew announced to Peter that they had found the Messiah. This was in Judea where John the Baptist was witnessing to Jesus. This may explain their immediate, unhesitating response in the account of the call in Mark 1:16-18 which would appear to have come later.
3. What is the evidence of Peter’s role as leader among the disciples? Was the change of his name from Simon to Cephas (Peter, ‘Rock’) simply a declaration by Jesus given to match his ‘rocky’ character, or a prediction by Jesus of his future leadership?
4. How did Peter’s initial understanding (or misunderstanding) of Jesus as Messiah contribute to his long and erratic journey to a mature faith? Where do we find the first real evidence of a mature faith?
Some of the passages that tell us a great deal about Peter are Mat 17:24-27 (the issue of the Temple tax), Mat 18:21 (the issue of forgiveness), John 6:68 (faithfulness when others desert Jesus), and especially Luke 22:24-34 and Luke 22:54-62 (controversy over power and Peter’s denials) followed by John 21:15-19 (Peter’s restoration and re-commission).
5. How is Peter’s journey a real comfort to us today?