Centuries ago when Jesus walked out of the wilderness after 40 days and nights, his eye fell upon a man who made his living sailing turbulent seas. Simon, commonly known as Peter, was the son of Jona and by vocation was a fisherman. He and his brother Andrew were partners with James and John in the fishing business. Peter, by no means an untested youth when he met Jesus, was married (Mark 1:30) and had pitted his strength against the sea for many years.
Peter’s early home had been at the fishing village of Bethsaida on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee; about the time of his first association with Jesus he and his family moved to Capernaum. The fishing business was apparently going very well since they owned their own boats and employed other men to work them. When Peter spoke of having “left all” to follow Jesus, the Lord never denied that Peter’s sacrifice of temporal possessions was great.
In temperament Peter was impulsive, stern and, until trained by experience, lacking in firmness. Jesus taught and trained Peter at every opportunity. He walked with him in the hills outside Capernaum and sat with him beside the sea. Jesus stayed in Peter’s home, ate at his table, and gave blessings to his family and friends. Peter watched the Son of God cast out devils, heal the sick, and restore the blind. Like us, Peter had many human weaknesses, yet in spite of them he ultimately overcame the temptations of the Adversary and the frailties of the flesh, and faithfully served his Lord as the appointed leader of the Twelve.
Peter’s faith reached heights essentially unequaled in the New Testament. It so surged within him that upon the Lord’s invitation Peter climbed out of his fishing boat and “walked on the water, to go to Jesus.” (Matthew 14:29) This act of faith has never been recorded of any other mortal man.
Despite the miracles, with such rigorous challenges and “hard sayings” in Jesus’ teachings, many followers simply could not endure “and walked no more with Him.” However, as the number of followers dwindled, Peter was the more conspicuous by his presence. He knew no other way and declared, “Lord, … thou hast the words of eternal life.” (John 6:60–68)
With Jesus leading the way, Peter, James, and John ascended “an high mountain” and there witnessed the transfiguration of the Son of God. His face shone as brightly as the sun at noonday and his raiment was as radiant as sunlight itself. Heavenly messengers appeared, bestowing upon this First Presidency every needful key for their ministry. They heard the voice of God declare, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” (Matthew 17:5)
Peter still had many lessons yet to learn in the days ahead. With his brethren he was to receive the Lord’s supper, to hear Jesus pray for their unity, and to discover that one of their number was “a devil.” (John 6:70) Regardless of what lay before him, the transfer of authority was now complete. Endowed with power from on high and armed with certainty of conviction, he descended with Jesus into the valley of the shadow of death. The supporting circle around Jesus continued to get smaller and smaller.
When men came to take Jesus, Peter was restrained by the Lord himself as he offered a defense. He could not go with him, but neither could he flee. Denying that he knew him, Peter stood in the courtyard of the accusers and saw the indignities his Lord and Savior suffered. Then, he did what all repentant men have cause to do. Silently and alone, he “went out, and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:62) Peter had been so certain that his strength was sufficient for such times and that, if necessary, he could withstand the evil alone.
The Lord [had] said [to Peter], Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. And [Peter] said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. (Luke 22:31-33)
Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus [then] said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. (Matthew 26:33-34)
But [Peter] spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. (Mark 14:31)
…and so they came for Jesus and…
Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? (John 18:10-11)
Still not fully understanding what was to come, Peter watched as they took Jesus, his dear friend, his beloved Savior, away…
And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. (John 18:15-16)
Now Peter sat without the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. (Matthew 26:69-73)
And Peter said, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62)
In the kingdom of God no man’s strength alone is sufficient. This sobering and sorrowing realization—realization that he was not, of himself, capable of what God required—was likely the final ingredient in Peter’s preparation.
It was Peter who held the keys of presidency in Christ’s church. Peter’s bravery was not perfect at first. Three times in the courtyard of the house where the Lord stood trial for His life, Peter denied that he knew Jesus. Yet this incident shows a strength, for Peter and John were the only apostles seen in the den of their enemies.
Peter must be measured by his success in carrying out the instructions of the Lord. He denied that he knew Jesus, but not the truth of the gospel. Peter’s actions both before and after demonstrate clearly his conviction to the Lord. Christ was his friend. Christ entrusted him to lead after His death. Peter watched his Lord, his Savior, his friend suffer and die resisting every desire to reach out and provide immediate rescue.
Peter learned the truth of all he’d been taught by the Lord. The road itself was clearly difficult. Regardless, he carried out the instructions with which he’d been entrusted and served diligently and faithfully as the Lord expected and knew that he would do.
In our service within our homes, in the church or even elsewhere in the world, Christ doesn’t really call the person whom we are today. As in the example of Peter, He calls the person whom we can and must become on our path to perfection. When He calls, have faith and follow.
- Jesus the Christ, James E. Talmage
- Simon Peter, Ensign, Feb. 1975, Dr. Richard Lloyd Anderson
- The Lengthening Shadow of Peter, Ensign, Sep. 1975, Jeffrey R. Holland
- None Were With Him, Ensign, Apr. 2009, Jeffrey R. Holland
- Peter, My Brother, Spencer W. Kimball