Her example shines from the shadows. Although she was not an apostle and we don’t even know her name, Peter’s wife is a true hero of faith. We begin our story in Capernaum, a fishing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The sabbath synagogue service has just concluded. It was an amazing service! In the middle of worship, a demon-possessed man began screaming:
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him (Mark 1:24 – 26).
Mrs. Peter probably missed seeing and hearing this. Her mother was home ill with a deadly fever. Now imagine what happened next. Peter, along with Jesus, Andrew, James, and John (and perhaps others), leave the assembly and come home with him. Now we know Jesus will take her by the hand and heal her completely, but Peter’s wife didn’t know that when Jesus and the rest arrived. How would you react if your husband brought home company under such circumstances? We are introduced to Mrs. Peter’s greatest virtue, what the Greeks called “makrothumia” – long-suffering.
In the very next chapter, we encounter her virtue again. Nearly the whole village has gathered in and around her house to hear Jesus teach. People are in the doorway and the windows. They have crowded into every corner of her home. Then, in the midst of it all, four young men carry their paralyzed friend onto the top of the house. (Did she hear them up there?) The young men begin digging a hole through the roof! (Can you see the bits of dirt and dust falling into the room and onto Jesus? How does Mrs. Peter react?) They lower their lame friend down in front of Jesus. The Lord not only heals the young man. He also forgives his sin! But, again, put yourself in Peter’s wife’s position. Not only is there a crowd in your home, but someone has dug a hole in her roof! She doesn’t rush to Peter to object. She doesn’t say anything to the young vandals. She was long-suffering!
On top of all that, Mrs. Peter encouraged her husband to leave and follow Jesus for three years. Later, the Apostle Paul asked: “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas (Peter)?” 1 Corinthians 9:5. Gone was his career as a prosperous fisherman and their life in Galilee. Just as Paul traveled across Asia Minor and Europe spreading the gospel, Peter traveled around the Black Sea starting churches (1 Peter 1:1). What I find fascinating is the presence of the long-suffering Mrs. Peter. According to Paul, Mrs. Peter traveled to distant lands, quietly helping her husband. She was content in the shadows.
Many years later, as we read Peter’s letter, I believe we see Peter describing his wife. He holds her up as an example for all wives:
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Finally, as we leave the pages of Scripture, we find one last tradition concerning Peter and his wife. They have arrived in Rome, but Emperor Nero has gone mad. Nero sadistically persecuted the Christians. Ultimately, Nero will have Paul beheaded, and Peter crucified. But before Peter died, he saw his wife led out the martyrdom. Eusebius records the words of Clement:
“They say that the blessed Peter when he saw his own wife led out to death rejoiced at her calling and at her return home and called out to her in true warning and comfort, addressing her by her name, ‘Remember the Lord.’ Such was the marriage of the blessed and the perfect disposition of those dearest to them.” (Ecclesiastical History, 3.30.2)
Did you notice the phrase “addressing her by name”? Someday, we’ll learn the name of this long-suffering saint!