I was reading Mark 14 last night, and I found it interesting that three separate times, Jesus came back after praying and found the disciples sleeping, clearly wanting them to stay awake with him. The first time he came back, he specifically addressed Peter, saying “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. The first questions that came to my mind were: What is there to keep watching for? What temptation is there to come into?
I had to take into account that he specifically addressed Peter here, and I’m guessing there is a connection between Peter’s inability to stay awake, alert, and actively praying, and the three times Peter denied knowing Jesus. Jesus told Peter to stay awake and pray so that he might “not come into temptation”. This was the warnings he received about giving into the flesh, and choosing sleep instead. He failed all three times to stay alert, keep watch, and pray.
Later on, the temptations Jesus spoke of came. Three times Peter was called out about being one of the men who were with Jesus, and every time Peter lied about it, and denied his knowing Jesus. Even though Jesus had specifically told Peter he would deny him three times, and having warned him in the garden, he still gave into temptation anyway.
A good friend of mine also pointed out to me that at the end of the gospel of John, after Jesus reappears to the disciples, he asks Peter three times if he loves him. Two things happen each time here: Peter is given an opportunity to assure Jesus of his love for him, and Jesus tells him to care for his people. Peter is even grieved that Jesus asks him three times, but it creates an opportunity for reassurance and redemption for the three denials.
This theme of three with Peter is definitely interesting, and I’m not entirely sure of the significance of it, other than that it shows that Jesus knew exactly what he was doing with Peter. It’s an example of planning, understanding, and redemption.