Despite his privileged position among Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, Peter’s relationship with Jesus was not without its challenges. For example, Jesus once publicly reprimanded Peter when Peter tried to discourage Him from going to the cross (Matthew 16:21-23). Peter is also widely known as the disciple who denied Jesus three times prior to His crucifixion.
In addition, Jesus confronted Peter with some difficult questions before His ascension, along with an ominous forewarning regarding his future (John 21:15-19). Yet despite these things, God used Peter to help establish the early church and his work continues to inspire Christians today through the Biblical books that bear his name.
Peter was clearly one of the more prominent Apostles in the years immediately following Jesus’ death and resurrection. His Pentecost sermon in response to the work of the Holy Spirit was the catalyst for a significant move of God among the people of various nations (see Acts chapter two). The first half of the Biblical book of Acts also highlights Peter’s early ministry, along with the many notable miracles that God gave him to perform.
Peter also worked to communicate the Gospel to those who lived in the region of Samaria, as well as others who were outside the Jewish community. Later, he was arrested several times and beaten for proclaiming Christ (Acts 5:12-40). Those encounters undoubtedly served to help Peter empathize with the members of his original audience who had been persecuted for their faith in Christ.
That being said, Peter’s Biblical presence grew less visible in his later years. His final appearance in the Book of Acts takes place in Acts 15:6-29, where he addressed a conference of apostles and elders. We also learn from Galatians 2:11-14 that Paul issued a public rebuke to Peter regarding his treatment of Gentile Christians in the city of Antioch. These references, along with the epistles of 1 and 2 Peter, are the only Biblical accounts of the latter portion of Peter’s life.
Church tradition tells us that Peter was ministering in the city of Rome when the Roman Empire began the first large scale governmental action against those who identified as Christians. During that period, it is said that Peter’s wife (who is historically known as Concordia or Perpetua) was martyred while Peter was made to witness her death. Nevertheless, tradition also holds that Peter encouraged her to remember the Lord as she faced execution.
We’ll consider the circumstances that may have surrounded Peter’s death next.