This is the date on which the Eastern Orthodox churches remember the martyrdom of Peter. In the West Peter is commemorated along
with Paul the Apostle on June 29th. Since the custom of the East gives Peter a day of his own, and there were many links between
the Celtic Christians and the East, this date is used here.
Simon came from Bethsaida in Galilee and was introduced to Jesus by his brother, Andrew, who said, ‘Come and see; we have found
the Messiah.’ Jesus gave Simon the new name of Peter, meaning ‘the Rock’. Peter is loved by many Christians for his evident
humanity – his impetuousness, his bravado, his vulnerability – and is affectionately known as ‘The Big Fisherman’. It was after
a fishing trip on the Sea of Galilee that Peter was called, along with Andrew – and James and John, the sons of Zebedee – to
leave their work and follow Jesus and begin to fish for people.
Peter was capable of amazing insights about Jesus, especially his response to His question, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ when
Peter declared, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ Yet on other occasions he was rebuked by Jesus for his lack of
faith and, especially, for questioning Jesus’ determination to lay down His life for the redemption of the world. On that
occasion, Jesus said to Peter, ‘Get away from me, Satan!’ – a remark which must have stung.
Peter’s most poignant demonstration of bravado and vulnerability came at the last meal shared by Jesus and His disciples, and
as Jesus was called to answer to the High Priest for His actions. Jesus declared at the meal that one of them would betray Him
to the authorities and three times Peter would deny even knowing Him. Peter responded vigorously, assuring Jesus that he would
defend Him to the last, even if it meant dying for Him. When Peter found himself in the High Priest’s courtyard, however,
surrounded by unsympathetic soldiers and servants, three times he declared that he didn’t know Jesus. Just then Jesus was led
out through the courtyard and looked at Peter with sadness and compassion. Peter went away to weep by himself.
After the resurrection of Jesus, a group of the disciples, including Peter, decided to go back to Galilee to fish. Jesus came
and stood on the shore, called to them and invited them to join Him round a fire for breakfast. Three times He asked Peter, ‘Do
you love Me?’ and three times, each more aggrieved than the last, Peter stated that he did; and so Jesus forgave Peter and
restored him to His fellowship and service. These words from Jesus began the restoration of Peter’s confidence, but it was the
coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost which completed it. It was Peter who addressed the crowds that gathered and
made a clear presentation of the claims of Jesus on the lives of all present. Peter did not, however, become the leader of the
Jerusalem church: that honour went to James, Jesus’ brother; but Peter was the first to take the Gospel message to the Gentiles.
Later, sadly, he wavered in his stance on this, until Paul faced him with his shortcomings. Peter played an important rôle in
the church in Rome and he was martyred there in around the year 67.
Accounts of the Synod of Whitby tell us that in the end King Oswy’s decision hinged on whether to accept the guidance of John,
favoured by the Celtic party, or of Peter, favoured by the Roman party. The King declared that as Peter held the keys of the
kingdom of heaven, he didn’t wish to offend him as he may refuse the King entrance at the gates of heaven. In reality there was
no division between Peter and John: they were fishermen together, Jesus often included them in a small group who witnessed
significant events in Jesus’ life, and they ran together to the empty tomb after the women told them that Jesus had been raised
from the dead. Significantly the Priory church on Lindisfarne was dedicated to St. Peter.
Lord, show us that our failings and mistakes can all be taken up by You and used to make us stronger, more effective in Your
service if we acknowledge our faults and seek Your forgiveness. Give us some of the boldness of Peter to share Your love, and
show us how to be at one with all who acknowledge Your Lordship. Amen.