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We Are All Like the Apostle Peter, in Some Ways

Jewish men overlook the Sea of Galilee

“As He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen.” (Matthew 4:18)

We root for him. We are dismayed by him. In some ways we are all like him.

The Apostle Peter was a Jew given the Hebrew name Shimon at birth, meaning “he has heard.  We know this name in English as Simon.

Yeshua knew that for Simon to be transformed into Peter, the Rock, he would need to undergo a paradigm shift.  All of Yeshua’s followers would need this paradigm shift to understand the Kingdom of God as Yeshua did.

Let’s see what it took for Peter, and what it would take for ourselves to make this shift.

Jewish men wearing tallitot (prayer shawls) pray with tefillin (phylacteries) and siddurim (Jewish prayer books).

Jewish men wearing tallitot (prayer shawls) pray with tefillin (phylacteries)
and siddurim (Jewish prayer books).

Simon Gets a New Name — Peter

Simon’s brother Andrew introduced him to Yeshua.

“When Yeshua looked at him, He said, ‘You are Shimon (Simon), the son of John; you will be called Kephas.'” (John 1:42)

In Aramaic (the common language of the day in Israel under the Roman Empire) kêfâ can mean a small stone or rock. In Greek, a small rock is petros, and that transliterates into English as Peter.

Peter’s new name is a lovely gift from the Master to His disciple, a constant reminder of who Peter is to be aligned with and keep his eye on — the Divine and Precious Cornerstone Himself.

Certainly, God has a big vision for this small rock who is about to be chipped away, smoothed out, and polished into a shepherd, apostle, and a vessel from which the Holy Spirit does miraculous works.

That journey for Peter began with a very personal and supernatural encounter with his Master, Messiah Yeshua.

Yeshua feeds the children at a village recreation.

“At your word I will let down the nets.”  (Luke 5:5)

On the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Peter and his fishing partners were about to return home to their families with no fish caught after an entire night of laborious fishing.  In the midst of their disappointment, Yeshua stepped into Peter’s boat and changed his world.  He told Peter to cast his net back into the sea.

Most people would walk away about now and go home.

“Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the ets,” Peter said.

He had already seen how Yeshua healed his mother-in-law from a high fever, and many more people who were healed that day.  So, by faith he obeyed.  And on this day, the fish overflowed the nets so much that the boat began to sink!

The Miraculous Catch of Fish, by Raphael

“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8)

While his fishing partners, James and John, were busy catching all the fish that miraculously filled their nets, too, Peter suddenly fell to his knees in humble submission and fear of the Divine Presence of God that stood before Him, and he confessed his sinfulness.  Seeing Peter’s obedience and humility, Yeshua spoke this prophetic word over him:

“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:10)

What a promotion! But how does a fisherman actually catch men?  Peter’s training now involves an immersive learning experience at sea.

Walking on Water

Walking on Water (1890), by Ivan Aivazovsky

“Lord, save me!”
(Matthew 14:30) 
Peter had seen the miraculous powers of Yeshua feed five thousand men and many more women and children with just five loaves of bread and two fish.

That night, Peter had such great faith in the supernatural ability of Yeshua that it was actually his idea to step out of a boat onto the raging sea and walk toward his Lord.

Peter walked on water while keeping his eyes on Yeshua.  Only when he took his eyes off of his Master did he begIn to sink.

He didn’t turn to his fishing partners for salvation.  He turned to the one who truly held his life in his hands:

Lord, save me!” he yelled.

Just then, Yeshua grabbed Peter and asked, “Why did you doubt?”

How many times has this happened to us?

A consistent faith keeps our eyes on Yeshua and that sustains us through any storm.  On his journey to a consistent faith, however, Peter needed more than supernatural experiences.

He needed sound teaching in the ways of the kingdom, which he received through the telling of parables. Yeshua, like many Jewish teachers, taught in parables.

The Exhortation to the Apostles, by James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum)

The Exhortation to the Apostles, by James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum)

“Explain this parable to us.” (Matthew 15:15)

Peter and the other disciples loved to sit at the feet of Yeshua and learn from him, yet they often asked him to explain things that seem so easy for us to understand.

Even Yeshua was surprised, “Are you also still without understanding?” He asked Peter. (verse 16)

However, a time would soon come at a place called Caesarea Philippi where Peter would receive supernatural spiritual understanding from the Spirit of God, without any explanation.

Caesarea Philippi Pan Cave

This large cliff at Caesarea Philippi housed shrines for pagan gods. The cave or grotto in the center of the photo was thought to be the gate to Hades by pagans in Yeshua’s day.

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

Peter, who didn’t understand a lot of other spiritual matters, saw the true identity of his Master Rabbi: that Yeshua was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel, his salvation.

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.

“And I tell you, you are Peter (Petros – small rock) and on this rock (petra – large boulder/cliff) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”  (verses 17–18)

And then Peter did the unthinkable.

Peter cuts ear off Malchus

The kiss of Judas and Peter cutting off the ear of Malchus (1786), by José Joaquim da Rocha

“No Messiah, I won’t let you be killed!”  (Matthew 16:21–22)

Peter just got through saying that Yeshua was the Messiah, and then tried to stop Him from fulfilling His destiny.

He did not understand that the Messiah’s purpose was to be the Lamb of God led to the slaughter, who would suffer for the sins of the world and save their souls for eternity. (See Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 12.)

For that emotional outburst, Yeshua called Peter, Satan! Imagine that.

Don’t we often try to stop ourselves from fulfilling our own destiny?

Why do we do that?

Like Peter, we focus on avoiding short-term pain at the expense of completing long-term plans.

In Yeshua’s case, God had a plan for Him that was set in motion at the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8) and prophesied throughout the Tanakh (Old Testament), such as in Genesis 3:15 and Genesis 22.

Binding of Isaac (1650), by Laurent de La Hyre depicts Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac as God instructed, but it was only a test of his faith and a foreshadow of the sacrifice God would make of His own Son, Yeshua. God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of Isaac (Genesis 22).

Peter didn’t understand those Messianic prophecies because most Jewish teachers (Rabbis) and the priests in Jerusalem believed that the Messiah would come to overthrow the Roman oppressors, like the Maccabees and other messianic claimants did.

They believed the Messiah would usher in a physical Messianic Kingdom, not to pay the wages for our sins.  The idea of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 began to develop in the end of the second temple era, but It was not yet fully developed or widespread.

So when Peter saw Yeshua being arrested instead of ushering in the Messianic Kingdom, his expectations about his Master were challenged and his understanding was offended.  And that led him into the next round of chiseling and shaping of his faith and character.

Peter denies Jesus and weeps

Peter Denies Jesus, by Anton Robert Leinweber (1845–1921), depicts Peter weeping bitterly after denying Yeshua three times (Luke 22:62).

“I don’t know that man!” (Mark 14:26–72)

While Yeshua was questioned before the high priest Caiaphas, only two disciples followed Yeshua into the palace courtyard:  Peter and his fishing partner John.

Peter thought he was standing strong for Yeshua by following Him at a distance, but as the future Apostle Paul would say, “If you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Separated from the emotional support of the other disciples as well as his Messiah Yeshua, Peter’s courage and faith melted.  He feared being arrested or killed just for being associated with Yeshua, so he denied knowing him.  Not just once, but three times!

Nevertheless, Peter still had a destiny to fulfill, and Yeshua did not take back his promise to him to make him into a fisher of men.

But first, Yeshua had to fulfill His own destiny.

Jesus on the cross

“He was wounded because of our transgressions, He was crushed because of our iniquities: The chastisement of our welfare was upon him, And with his stripes we were healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

The Scared Fisherman Becomes a Fisher of Men and Loyal Shepherd

The death of Yeshua devastated Peter and the rest of the disciples, who still didn’t understand why their Messiah had to die.  Even after His resurrection, they didn’t realize that He died for their sins, restoring humanity with the Kingdom of Heaven.

That restoration began on earth for Peter, in a similar scenario as his discipleship began — after a night of fishing.

After catching no fish all night, Yeshua appeared on the shore in His resurrected body and called out to Peter and the others on the lake, telling them to lower their nets.  They did so and caught so many fish they couldn’t even lift the net back up. (John 21:1–14)

“It is the Lord!” yelled Peter, who jumped out of the boat and swam to shore.

Peter and other disciples look toward a man on the shore of Galilee, not recognizing it is the resurrected Yeshua. Painting by William Hole (1846-1917)

Peter denied Yeshua three times and in John 21:15–19, Yeshua asks him three times, “Do you love me?”

After each question about Peter’s love and devotion to Him, Yeshua gives him further instruction on how to become not only a fisher of men but also a shepherd:

“When they had finished eating, Yeshua said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’

“‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’

“‘Yeshua said, ‘Feed my lambs.’

“Again Yeshua asked, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’

“He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’

“Yeshua said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’


A shepherd with his sheep

“The third time He asked him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
Peter was hurt because Yeshua asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’

“He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’

“Yeshua said, ‘Feed my sheep.’

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but 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.”

“Yeshua said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. [Christian tradition tells us that Peter was crucified upside down]. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!’”

“Feed my sheep” (instruct them) and “Take care of my sheep” (protect them).

Yeshua entrusted all of this to Peter even after he lost faith and turned his back on Yeshua!  He saw that Peter repented — he not only wept bitterly over his failing (Luke 22:62), he never again denied his Messiah.

The Pentecost Sermon, by Gebhard Fugel

The Pentecost Sermon, by Gebhard Fugel

The Shepherd Becomes a Teacher and Apostle

The disciple (Simon-Peter) who couldn’t understand a simple parable or Messianic prophecy only weeks earlier now boldly stood on a balcony at Pentecost (Shavuot) filled with the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) and explained the prophecies to the masses of people in the streets.

“Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say, …” Peter said in the Book of Acts 2:14.

Peter established these new believers in kehilot (congregations) and placed zekenim (elders) above them (1 Peter 5:1–4) to care for and equip them.

In this way, he became an apostle, meaning sent one.


Orthodox Jewish children watch as Israelis gather at the Western (Wailing) Wall for prayer.

All of us have a purpose and mission for the Kingdom of God. Peter was just a fisherman, and in some ways, we are no different from him.

God wants to place us in His service today, and He is looking for Peters in this end-time generation!

You can be a part of His service by helping us share with the Jewish People the Messianic Prophecies and Good News of salvation that Yeshua offers.

“Yeshua came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.'” (Matthew 28:18)

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