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When they finished eating, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you truly love me more than these?” “These” referred to the breakfast consisting of bread and fish that they had just eaten. Peter’s answer to the question was an assertive “yes.” His experience was not unique. If the Lord were to ask any Christian the same question, no Christian would hesitate but surely reply, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Hardly would a believer love a few fishes more than the Lord or betray Him for just a few loaves of bread! Immediately, the Lord told Peter, “Feed my lambs,” implying that if what he said was true, he was worthy to shepherd the sheep of God. When the Lord asked Peter the same question the second time, He received the same firm reply. However, when the Lord asked Peter the third time “Do you love me?” he was hesitant and hurt as this stirred up his most painful memory. Just a few days ago, Peter had denied the Lord three times. Therefore, when the Lord asked him the same question three times, it reminded him of his denial of Jesus, that he tried so hard to forget.

On the eve before the Lord went to the cross, He told all His disciples that they would fall away that very night. But Peter did not believe the words of the Lord and confidently proclaimed: “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” Sadly, Peter not only ended up denying the Lord three times, he even cursed and swore an oath. Consequently, he wept bitterly over it. Now when the Lord asked him “Do you love me?” for the third time, it brought to mind that incident. From Peter’s response to the Lord, we know that Peter’s self-confidence had been completely shattered. No longer would Peter believe that he would be the only one left standing when all others would fall; nor would he believe that even if he had to die with the Lord he would never deny Him. He even began to doubt whether he would deny the Lord for the few fishes and loaves of bread that he had just eaten for breakfast. As a result of this, he was deeply grieved when the Lord asked him the question the third time. Now Peter was convinced that the Lord was all-knowing. Perhaps the Lord already knew he would deny Him again for these few fishes and bread, and therefore asked him the same question three times. Here, we find Peter no longer doubted the words of the Lord, unlike the betrayal night. Even if the Lord were to tell him that he would deny Him for a grain of barley, he would believe wholeheartedly without reservation because his self-confidence had already been totally shattered on that night of denial.