He not only saw, but also heard the Creator saying to Peter: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18).
Once the prince of evil found this out…, he tempted Peter, the first leader of God’s faithful people, as he had previously tempted Adam, the founder of the race of men.
Realizing that Peter was endowed with intelligence and afire with love for Christ, he did not dare make a direct attack.
Instead he came upon him from the right flank, cunningly deceiving him into being excessively eager.
At the time of the saving Passion, when the Lord told His disciples, “All ye shall be offended because of me this night” (Matt. 26:31), Peter disobediently contradicted Him.
He also exalted himself above the others, saying that even if everyone else were offended, he would not be (Matt. 26:33).
Because he had been beguiled into arrogance, he fell further than the rest, so that by humbling himself more than them he might eventually appear more radiant.
Unlike Adam who was tempted, vanquished and completely brought down, Peter, having been tempted and led astray a little, overcame the tempter.
How? Through his immediate condemnation of himself, his intense sorrow and repentance, and the medicine which brings forgiveness, tears.
“A broken and contrite heart”, it says, “O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17), and “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Cor. 7:10), and “They that sow their supplications in tears shall joyfully reap forgiveness” (cf. Ps. 126:5).
Anyone who looks at Peter will see that through repentance and painful grief he not only adequately healed the denial into which he had been drawn, but he also completely rooted out of his soul that passion which had made him fall behind the others.
Wishing to demonstrate this to everyone, the Lord, after His Passion in the flesh for our sake and His rising on the third day, used those words to Peter which we read in today’s Gospel, asking him, “Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou me more than these” (John 21:15), meaning, “more than these disciples of mine”.
But see how much humbler he has become. Whereas before, even without being asked, he set himself above the rest and said that even if all forsook the Lord, he would not; now, on being asked whether he loves Him more than the others do, he affirms that he loves Him, but leaves out the word “more”, saying “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee” (John 21:15, 16, cf. 17).
Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on the Feast of St Peter and St Paul, 5-6 @ Mystagogy.