Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed as Jesus said he would. In the internal sense refers to the spiritual state of the church, of the dire time taking place that night. The fullness of time of the darkness at the end of the church had come. Three represents its completion.
This end of darkness was also seen and represented by the sudden ‘night’ that came over the land while Jesus lingered on the cross When Peter denied Jesus the third time, in the big picture it represented the very end of the Jewish church as the representative church for mankind. All the disciples leaving Him was the triumph of the bereft and external state of the world. Jesus was left alone in this night to carry on in love and faith to be bridge to renew mankind and bring the the New Church to fruition.
So these scriptures are not just about the personal state of Peter, but in the big picture they are about what is happening to the universal church (the spiritual state of Mankind, which is God’s greatest love and charge). This is the nature of the internal sense of the Word. The Jewish church as the representative church, which means it was used for correspondence between heaven and earth – was over. It had no more charity, it is desolate, just as Peters denial left him in devastation.
On a personal level His denial revealed the evils that remained in Peter. These may be levels of pride and such but at its essence Peter could not see and so denied the divinity of the Lord. This evil had be revealed to be removed. This was essential for Peter to do his mission. To begin the New Christian Church it is vital that the Lord’s people not only believe that he is the Messiah and that He is the son of God – But that He IS GOD HIMSELF BORN ON EARTH.
There is a big difference, because the former allow that Jesus is still human, or partially human, and that He is not omnipotent. But in truth He is the ONE divine God in human form. This is why the Lord commended Mary of Bethany who rushed in and anointed Him while He was alive with precious oil before His death. She had caught the vision that He is God himself, and so she worshipped Him with a love and awareness that was on fire! So He said ‘let what she has done here today be a memorial for all generations’. He said this because she had the kind of faith He most dearly desires – that she loves and knows him for who He is – as God Himself. Peter the man didn’t know this and was left in anguish to face this truth, he knew nothing and he rejected that Jesus was God, but this pain of desolation awakened the seed in him. But even when Mary come to him after seeing the empty tomb Peter and the disciples didn’t believe. But finally when the two men and Mary came to the disciples they believed that Jesus resurrected, and they had to come terms with it. Then the resurrected Jesus showed himself to them, and they came to believe.
Then later, in the last appearance of the resurrected Jesus restoration of Peter took place. Jesus asked Peter to feed his sheep three times. When Jesus asked the third time it says that “Peter was grieved’, indicating again how all of this is a process of growth, but Peter seems to learn that the Lord is the ONE God for the Lord accepts Peter as worthy of the mission to lead the new church. After this Peter and the disciples and many others receive the Holy spirit (the presence of Jesus) at Pentecost and Peter becomes an utterly dedicated leader and man of faith. So three is repeated because it represents the process of moving from beginning to completion.