Saint Peter the Apostle

Profile of the Apostle Peter: Saint, Disciple of Jesus Christ, First Pope

Saint Apostle Peter
The painting "Peter Walks on the Sea" by James Tissot shows Saint Peter at a key moment in his life. SuperStock/Getty Images

Saint Peter (also known as the Apostle Peter and Simon Peter) lived during the 1st century in the ancient Roman Empire (in parts that are now Israel and Italy). St. Peter the Apostle was a disciple of Jesus Christ, and author of two books of the Bible, 1 Peter and 2 Peter. He was also the first pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Peter is a patron saint of old people who have lived long lives, people who need healing from fever or foot problems, and people working in a variety of professions, including: bakers, farmers, sailors, builders, locksmiths, butchers, people who fish, and people who make either clocks or shoes.

Here's a profile of Peter and an overview of the faith and miracles in his life:

Flawed, Yet Passionate

Peter was always struggling with flaws that he needed God's help to overcome, yet he was also always passionate about his faith in God's love and power. Peter's life represents the common struggle of all humanity between wholeness (good) and brokenness (evil) in our fallen world. Hope and struggle fought with each other inside Peter's soul, just as they do inside everyone who wants to be faithful yet still makes mistakes.

A Fisherman Meets Jesus

A fisherman by trade, Peter was on the shore of the Sea of Galilee after working on his boat one day when he met Jesus Christ. That was when Jesus invited Peter and his brother Andrew to join his ministry work, famously telling them: "Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people." (Matthew 4:19).

Boldly, Peter responded by leaving his thriving fishing business behind to follow Jesus into new work and adventures.

During the three years of Jesus' earthly ministry, Peter served as one of his 12 disciples, learning from Jesus' teachings and witnessing his miracles. Along the way, Peter faced his frailties (such as fear, selfishness, doubt, and impulsiveness), but honestly admitted his flaws and kept seeking God's power to change and grow as a person.

Famous Miracles and Probing Questions

One famous miracle that Peter participated in was when Jesus walked on water. After the disciples saw Jesus doing so while they were out in a boat together, Jesus challenged Peter to try walking on water himself. Peter's experience illustrates that power of faith at work: Peter believed enough to take steps forward, but began to sink when his faith faltered. Jesus met Peter where he was and saved him, pulling Peter up out of the water and encouraging him to strengthen his faith as he moved on in life.

Jesus asked Peter key questions at various times, highlighting the questions that many people would have about Jesus after that time in history -- questions that they could explore by reading Bible stories about how Peter wrestled with those questions.

When Jesus asked Peter "Who do you say I am?", Peter replied that Jesus was the Messiah (the world's savior) and the son of the living God. That statement of faith inspired Jesus to tell Peter "you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). It was on a solid foundation of faith -- like the faith that Peter expressed -- that Jesus would build his church throughout the world.

When Jesus asked Peter "Do you love me?" after his crucifixion, death, and resurrection, Jesus asked three times -- one for each of the times that Peter had denied knowing Jesus during the stress of interrogation by officials who wanted to get rid of Jesus' disciples.

Each of the miraculous events in Peter's life also symbolized the importance of faith in some way.

At home with Peter's wife and family in Capernum, Jesus miraculously healed Peter's mother-in-law from an illness that had caused a fever, showing that God's power is at work in everyday situations.

After Peter asserted to Jesus that the Messiah shouldn't have to suffer, Jesus rebuked Peter by telling him that Satan was sending that sinful thought into his mind. Then Jesus allowed Peter to see him in his heavenly glory through the miracle of the Transfiguration, confirming in Peter's mind that Jesus really was the world's savior and was doing work that was beyond full human understanding -- work that required faith from people to believe.

Thought-Provoking Personal Qualities

The personal qualities Peter displayed also represented the significance of faith in God at work transforming people's lives.

Peter acted with violence, and without thinking, when he cut off the ear of a soldier who had come to arrest Jesus. After Peter's bad choice, Jesus healed the soldier's injury, restoring his ear before willingly going with the soldiers. But Peter used those same qualities of passion and boldness for good purposes on the day of Pentecost, when he courageously took the risk of sharing the Gospel message with thousands of people in a potentially hostile crowd. Peter's passionate speech led to many people coming to faith in Jesus that day.

After that, Peter continued to serve as a leader in the Christian faith, working with others (like the Apostle Paul) to build the church, just as Jesus had said he would. Peter endured persecution and suffering in the process, but God continued to work in his life, even sending an angel to help Peter escape from prison.

Peter was martryed for his faith in Rome (according to tradition, he was crucified upside down) after inspiring many people with his leadership. Catholics honor Peter as the first pope ("papa") to lead their church.

Peter was a flawed man with whom all people can identify, who showed that power comes from trusting God no matter what.