Simon Peter’s Faith
One day, Simon was called, along with Jesus’ other disciples, up to a mountain, where the Lord had been praying all night. After the disciples arrived, Jesus selected twelve of them, and gave them the name “apostles.”1 Simon, whom Jesus called “Peter,”2 appears to be the first one chosen (his name appears first in every list of the apostles in the Bible).
It was some time after this that Jesus said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.” So they all got into a ship and went across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus went to the lower part of the ship and went to sleep, and then the storm came. This storm was so fierce that the apostles—including experienced fishermen like Peter, Andrew, James, and John—thought they were going to die. The boat was being tossed around by the waves, and water was filling the boat. Some of the apostles ran down to where Jesus was, waking Him, and saying, “Master, don’t you care that we are perishing?” Jesus gets up, probably goes up to the main deck, and says, “Peace. Be still,” and the storm immediately stopped. Peter had never seen anything like it in his life. Then he hears Jesus’ words, “Why are you so afraid? How is it that you have no faith?”3 Those words made quite an impression on him.
After they all came back to Capernaum,4 the ruler of the synagogue, named Jairus, came begging for Jesus to heal his only daughter. Jesus began to follow him, but as He did, a woman desperately seeking to be healed touched the hem of His garment; and Jesus turned around and said, “Who touched me?” Peter, somewhat incredulously, looked at Jesus and said, “Master, the multitude is crowding and pressing [against] you; and you say, ‘Who touched me’?” Jesus reemphasized that He had felt power leave Him, and then Peter saw the woman come before Jesus, trembling, and falling down at His feet, and explaining what she touched Him. Jesus almost certainly smiled as He looked at her and said, “Daughter, be of good comfort: your faith has made you whole.”5 Peter probably couldn’t help but notice how different Jesus’ words were to this woman, compared to what He had earlier said to Peter and the other apostles.
After the woman was healed, Peter followed Jesus to Jairus’ house, where they were met with the terrible news: Jairus’ daughter had died before they could get there. But Jesus looked at Jairus and told him, “Don’t be afraid: Just believe [show faith],6 and she will be healed.”7 Then Jesus goes inside with Mr. and Mrs. Jairus, and only permits Peter, James, and John to accompany them. Peter watched as Jesus took the dead girl by the hand and said, “Little girl, arise.”8 She immediately rose up, and Peter again saw the power of faith.
Soon after this miracle of restoring the little girl’s life, Jesus called the apostles to Him and gave them miracle-working abilities, and sent them out on a mission to the Jews. Peter was sent with his brother Andrew, and “went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing everywhere.”9 Upon returning, Peter and the others told Jesus about the things they had done, and they got on a ship with Him and sailed to a deserted area where they could rest.10 However, the people who had been following Jesus saw what they were doing, and ran ahead to the area of Bethsaida, where the ship was headed.11
After landing, Jesus took compassion on the multitude, and told the apostles to feed them. Peter and the rest were shocked. Philip said, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread isn’t sufficient for each of them to even have a little!”12 Peter was most likely in agreement with this assessment, though he was probably also telling himself to “have faith.” He was amazed when five loaves and two fishes fed the entire crowd of 5,000, and also left twelve baskets of leftovers. The evidence was right in front of him to strengthen his faith.
This miracle was enough for many of the men among the 5,000 to declare that Jesus was truly “that prophet which should come into the world!”13 Then they sought to take Jesus by force and make Him the king. When Jesus realized what their intentions were, He sent them away14 and went to a mountain by Himself.15
Jesus told Peter and the others to go get into the ship and sail to the other side. Evening came, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and Jesus was still on the mountain.16 Jesus looked across the sea and saw them struggling to row because the wind was fighting against them, and the waves were tossing them around.17 Around 3 AM, Jesus came to them, walking on the water.18 They had been rowing all night for a journey that would normally have been rather short. Peter would have been struggling along with the other apostles when all of a sudden there was screaming—there was a ghost on the waves! Or, so they thought. Jesus hadn’t intended to stop and join them,19 but when they saw Him, thinking He was a ghost, they were scared; so Jesus called out to them, “Have courage; it is I. Don’t be afraid.”20
The impetuous and brave Peter, peering through the darkness and the mist kicked up by the wind and waves, called back to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus’ replied to Peter by commanding him, “Come.” So Peter climbed out of the rocking ship and stepped out onto the boisterous waves, and he started to walk towards Jesus on top of the water. He was doing fine until he started looking at the waves and thinking about the wind, and down into the water he went, sinking, screaming, “Lord, save me!” Immediately, Jesus caught hold of him, kept him from drowning, and said to him, “O you of little faith. What caused you to doubt?”21
Peter must have been heartbroken as Jesus brought him over the water and into the rocking ship. But as soon as they both climbed aboard, the wind stopped. The disciples were all amazed at the suddenness with which the wind stopped; and they started worshiping Jesus, saying “Truly you are the Son of God.”22 Peter must have felt awful, seeing Jesus completely eliminate the wind and waves which had caused him to doubt. But he didn’t have much time to dwell on it while he was in the boat, because as soon as Jesus climbed in, they were instantly at their destination.23
The next day, when the crowds discovered where Jesus had gone, they came to Capernaum and found Him, and asked Him, “When did you come here?” Instead of answering their question, Jesus replied with something that showed their lack of focus (the same lack of focus that the apostles were also guilty of to an extent): “You seek me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you ate the bread and were filled. Don’t labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures into everlasting life, which the Son of man will give to you: for Him has God the father attested.”24
After speaking about the necessity to eat His flesh and drink His blood, which was a “hard saying,” difficult to understand, “many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.”25 Jesus looked at the apostles, and asked them, “Do you wish to go away too?” Peter, just a day removed from his embarrassing incident on the sea, spoke up, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and are certain that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God.”26
Though he strongly confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and acknowledged that He had the words of eternal life, Peter had a hard time grasping the importance of some of Jesus’ teaching. The scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem had come, and criticized the disciples for not washing their hands when they eat bread. Jesus condemned these accusers, calling them hypocrites who were “blind leaders of the blind” who would “fall into the ditch.” He told them that it isn’t what goes into a person that defiles him, but what comes out of him. After Jesus said this, they went into a house, away from the people,27 and Peter boldly commanded Him, “Explain this parable to us.” Jesus then looks at the apostles, and asks, “Are you still without understanding? Don’t you understand yet?”28 After those words, Peter might have felt like he should have kept his mouth shut; for though he loved the Lord, he was still not the “Rock” that he knew he needed to become. His faith was still in a state of growth.
Traveling with Jesus to the area of Tyre and Sidon, Peter saw a Canaanite woman approaching the Lord, begging, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David. My daughter is badly tormented by a demon.” Though Jesus didn’t answer her, Peter and the other apostles were getting aggravated by her, and asked Jesus to “Send her away, because she’s crying after us.” Jesus then told the woman that He was sent only to the Israelites; but still she persisted in humility. Then Jesus said to her, “Great is your faith, O woman. It is for you even as you desire,” and her daughter was healed.29 Once again, Peter must have thought back to the times when his faith was put to the test and found lacking—yet this Canaanite woman was lauded by Jesus as having “great … faith.”
After miraculously feeding 4,000 people, Peter and the apostles accompanied Jesus in a ship across the Sea of Galilee.30 Then the Lord spoke to them and said, “Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” But the apostles all assumed that He was saying this because they forgot to bring bread. The scathing rebuke again came from Jesus, “O ye of little faith! … Do you still not understand, nor remember the five loaves [that fed] the five thousand, and how many baskets [of leftovers] you took up? Neither the seven loaves [that fed] the four thousand, and how many baskets you took up? How is it that you don’t understand that I didn’t speak to you about bread, [but] that you should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees?”31 They finally understood what Jesus was getting at, but Peter especially must have stung at the rebuke.
-Bradley S. Cobb
1 As discussed in the introductory chapter, the word “apostle” means “one sent with a mission.” By the time of the first century, it had taken on the idea of someone acting as an official representative of the one who sent him. So Peter and the other eleven were chosen to be Jesus’ representatives, His ambassadors, His delegates to the Jews, and later to the Gentiles as well.
2 As stated earlier, “Peter” and “Cephas” have the same meaning. From the time of his selection as an apostle, Simon is primarily known by this new name, or else as “Simon Peter.” There are some exceptions to this, and it is possible that the exceptions (usually where Jesus is speaking) are intentional to get Simon Peter to notice something about himself and his actions.
3 The calming of the storm is recorded in Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:34-41; and Luke 8:22-25.
4 Matthew and Mark both place these events in connection with the city of Capernaum. See Matthew 9:1 (“His own city”), 9:9-17 (the call of Matthew, followed by the feast at Matthew’s house), after which Matthew says “While He spoke these things to them, behold, a certain ruler [Jairus] came to Him…” Mark places these events in Capernaum (Mark 2:1-22).
5 Luke 9:41-48.
6 The word “believe” is the verb form of the word “faith” in the Greek. In other words, “faith” and “believe” (pistis and pisteuo) are the same basic word in the original. This statement of Jesus was made just as much for the benefit of Peter, James, and John as it was for Jairus.
7 The King James Version says “she shall be made whole.” This is one word in Greek, and it is the same word that is translated “healed” or “saved” throughout the New Testament.
8 Luke 8:54, NKJV. The Modern Literal Version has “Child, arise” (see also ESV).
9 Luke 9:1-6. Jesus’ commands and instructions are given in more detail in Matthew 10. Matthew also groups the apostles in pairs, which matches up with Mark’s account, that Jesus sent them out “two by two” (Mark 6:7).
10 Mark 6:30-32.
11 Luke 9:10; Mark 6:32-33
12 John 6:7. Two hundred pennyworth is 200 days’ wages.
13 John 6:14. This is a reference to Deuteronomy 18, when Jehovah said that He would raise up a prophet like unto Moses, that everyone must listen to or be held accountable by God.
14 Mark 6:46. John’s account says that He “departed,” but Mark adds the detail of dispersing the crowd first.
15 John 6:15. This passage is a deathblow to Premillennialism. That false doctrine teaches that Jesus came to earth to set up an earthly kingdom, but was surprisingly rejected by the Jews. This one verse shows that (1) He had the opportunity to be made king, and (2) He was anything but rejected by the Jews at this point. Additionally, Mark 6:46 states that Jesus sent away the crowds—that is, He rejected their overtures at making Him king. The truth is, Jesus’ kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36), and it was established in the first century (see Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:9). The idea of an earthly reign of Jesus from a literal throne in Jerusalem is foreign to the Scriptures (compare also, Jeremiah 22:28-30 and Matthew 1:11-16).
16 Apparently, the Disciples assumed Jesus was going to walk to their location and that they’d just meet Him there.
17 Matthew 14:23-24; Mark 6:48.
18 Mark 6:48 calls it “about the fourth watch of the night.” The night began at 6 PM, ended at 6 AM, and was divided into four “watches,” each lasting three hours. The first would be 6 to 9 PM, the second was 9 PM to midnight, the third was midnight to 3 AM, and the fourth was 3 AM to 6 AM. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (“Watch”) says, “The fourfold division was according to the Roman system, each of which was a fourth part of the night.”
19 See Mark 6:48, MLV, NET, ESV, Living Oracles. The KJV and NKJV both say that Jesus “would have passed them by.” But the Greek word translated “would,” means to wish, or to desire. Jesus “intended” to pass them by.
20 The account of Jesus’ walking on the water is recorded by Matthew (14:22-33), Mark (6:445-51), and John (6:15-21). All three mention the wind, the reaction of the disciples, and Jesus’ words.
21 Though Jesus’ walking on the water is recorded in three of the four gospel accounts (only Luke doesn’t mention it), it is only Matthew that mentions Peter’s adventure on the perilous sea. Why the others omit this part is a matter of speculation.
22 Matthew 14:32-33. Mark 6:51-52 adds a detail, saying that they were greatly astonished because they hadn’t considered the miracle of the loaves (the feeding of the 5,000), because their heart was hardened. That is, they were still putting physical things first and not considering the power Jesus had already shown.
23 John 6:21.
24 John 6:22-27. Verse 27, King James Version, says “sealed,” but the idea is of authorizing something by means of a seal. Thus, God the Father was attesting to, showing His approval of, Jesus Christ.
25 John 6:51-66.
26 John 6:67-69.
27 Mark 7:17.
28 Matthew 15:16-17. Though Peter is the one who spoke up, Jesus addresses His rebuke to the whole group. The word “you” (“ye” in the King James Version) is plural in the original.
29 Matthew 15:21-28. Though Jesus’ mission was primarily to the Israelites, He still showed compassion on the Gentiles and worked among them somewhat as well. For example, soon after healing this woman’s daughter, Jesus went to Decapolis (Mark 7:31), which was a federation of ten free Greek cities, primarily made up of Gentiles. He did many miracles among them, causing them to “glorif[y] the God of Israel” (Matthew 15:30-31). And then Jesus had compassion on them, and fed them—all 4,000+ of them (Matthew 15:32-38).
30 Mark 8:13.
31 Matthew 16:5-11. When Jesus says, “ye of little faith,” He is addressing the entire group of the apostles. The word “ye” is plural.