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Our readers asked:

Why does Jesus ask Peter “do you love me?” three times?

Joe Paprocki Answers:

Jesus did not ask Peter this question 3 times because he was hard of hearing or slow to comprehend Peter’s answers! The fact that Jesus asks Peter this question – “do you love me?” – three times is very significant.

First of all, the number 3 is one of those “good” numbers in the Bible. Numbers are often used in the Bible to make a point and to express meaning. For example the number 40 represents a significant period of time during which one’s faith is tested. The number 12 represents wholeness or fullness. Well, the number 3 also has some significance. It is on the 3rd day that God saves: Jonah is released from the belly of the whale on the 3rd day. Saul, soon to be known as Paul, regains his eyesight on the 3rd day. Of course, Jesus is raised from the dead on the 3rd day. Thus, 3 is a “good” number. Unfortunately for Peter, he denied knowing Jesus 3 times just before Jesus’ crucifixion (Mt 26; Mk 14; Lk 22; Jn 13). Upon appearing to his disciples after the Resurrection, however, Jesus brings forgiveness, not retribution. To those who deserted him before his crucifixion, Jesus says, “Shalom” which means “Peace.” To Peter, Jesus offers a three-fold opportunity for forgiveness, as is described in John 21:15-19. Peter is hurt when Jesus asks him a 3rd time, most likely because it made him recall his own three-fold denial of Jesus. This story emphasizes the prominence of Peter among the Apostles and demonstrates how, despite his denial, Peter is restored – reconciled with Jesus – through Jesus’ forgiveness of sins.

The Author : Joe Paprocki
Joe Paprocki, D.Min., is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press in Chicago. He has over 30 years of experience in pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Joe is the author of numerous books on pastoral ministry and catechesis, including The Bible Blueprint, Living the Mass, and bestsellers The Catechist's Toolbox and A Well-Built Faith (all from Loyola Press).
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  • PreMedGirl

    Good points! But I always thought Peter felt bad because he thought maybe Jesus didn’t believe him or because maybe Peter was confused…by that I mean he was confused bc he knew Jesus knew that Peter loved him.

  • Dan Lockwood

    Thank you, Pastor Joe. Was contemplating my mother’s often quoted “Things happen in threes” statements after reading the “Sheet from heaven x 3” episode (Acts 10-11). Google sent me here. The Lord is so merciful and gracious! Once you see it you see it everywhere in Scripture. It was also at least three times, too, that Jesus told Peter (and the others) of the unfolding of his plan, that he would be rejected, suffer and rise again.

  • Denise Zabel Palm

    While reading these passages last fall I had a revelation that it also referred to the Trinity, God the Father, Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit. You have to love all three.

  • DJ

    This is a very significant story it makes sense that everything is mentioned in numbers!!!

  • Melissa Felicelli

    What does it mean if one sees everything in threes, each day, multiple situations, words, etc. come to me in threes, never looking, just random? Also multiple situations of me seeing what will take place in sometimes minutes, hours or days ahead. For example, I might be speaking of blue feathers I collect, dogs I take care of and then drive by a road sign named blue dog lane….this happens all the time in addition to seeing/hearing/reading or observing events/situations in threes. Thank you for your comments on this situation for me.

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