“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’” (John 21:15)
If Jesus asked Peter three times whether he loved him in order to redeem the three times Peter denied him, how many times would Jesus need to ask us?
Most Bible commentators seem to confirm that the threefold challenge to Peter was designed to counter his threefold denial. With the third time, Peter protested, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus did not mince words on this subject. “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny him before my heavenly Father.” (Mt. 10:32-33)
Denial can take a variety of forms. There is the direct denial like Peter’s, when we deny our Christian faith or that we are followers of Jesus Christ. While this is not a circumstance that most Christians have had to face in this country historically, this may change in the future.
There are the more subtle forms of denial such as failing to speak up when our Christian beliefs are challenged or when explicit anti-Christian conduct by others is taking place in our presence. When I used to attend receptions and dinners following day-long company meetings or conferences, the conversation during cocktails could often get a bit raw with off-color jokes, and stories of various exploits. After experiencing a renewal in my relationship with Jesus Christ, I started to quietly walk away these conversations.
Another form of denial may be the times when we fail to live up to Jesus’ commandments of love of God and neighbor. While I hesitate to think how often I have failed to love according to this standard, we can thank God that we have just celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, and the promise of life with him forever.
While we may not reach perfection in our love for God and the people he puts in our lives, we should still strive for it, so we can say, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”