Jump Start # 3341
Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.”
In our verse today, the Lord tells Peter something that he likely had no idea about. Satan had his aim on Peter Satan wanted Peter. And, specifically, Satan asked about Peter. There are powerful things to consider here:
First, Satan had to get permission. He is limited. He can’t do anything that he wants. He has power. He is a liar. But he is not equal to the Lord. He cannot overcome the Lord. He was limited in what he could do to Job and he is limited in what he can do to Peter. He sought permission.
The “sifting like wheat” brings the idea of shaking violently and thrashing about. Satan wasn’t referring to the boat ride through the violent storm. The sifting would come through the voice of a servant girl. Jesus, arrested and led to the high priest, Peter follows. In the courtyard, a servant girl accuses Peter. This happens again. Fear. Alone. Lacking faith. The sifting of Peter was someone challenging him. It wasn’t a Roman with a sword drawn. It wasn’t the hierarchy of the Jewish power structure. It was a girl. It was a servant. That’s all Satan needed to rock Peter’s world. Three times Peter would deny.
Our greatest challenge may not be from radicals who are pushing immoral agendas. It may not be a college professor who mocks faith. Our sifting may be from a family member. It might come from a young person. Fear. Alone. Lacking faith. And, our world can be turned upside down. Thinking of how to look good, protect ourselves, the Lord we love can be denied.
Second, the Lord gave Satan permission. Easily, Jesus could have said, “No, he belongs to me.” But He didn’t. It’s amazing that Jesus would grant anything that Satan wants. Earlier, when demons begged Jesus to send them into the swine, He allowed that. Amazing that the Lord would grant what these wicked forces wanted. I’d think, ‘If you want to go into pigs, I’ll put you inside a tree.’ Or, ‘If you want to sift Peter, I’ll give you permission to eat worms.’
Maybe the Lord was counting on Peter. Maybe the Lord thought Peter could take it. But even before the sifting began, Jesus revealed that Peter would deny Him three times. He knew.
Third, the text tells us that Jesus would pray for Peter. That’s an fascinating thought. We pray to God. We pray to Jesus. But Jesus, praying for one of us? The Lord prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. He knew it could. He knew that faith was the key. And, so it is for us. A strong faith will keep us going. A strong faith will kick Satan to the curb. But when we are wavering, and when the storm clouds blow in, Satan will have his way with us. I’m praying, Jesus said. I want your faith to be strong, Jesus said.
Fourth, though Peter failed, the Lord wasn’t through with him yet. Peter would preach that Gospel at Pentecost. Peter would be the first to go to Gentiles. Peter would write two books of the N.T. He crashed, but he got back into things. I wonder if you and I find more in common with Peter than any of the other apostles. We have crashed. We wonder if our race is over. God doesn’t think so.
In our times today, Peter might have a hard time finding a place to preach. We tend to remember mistakes, especially of public leaders such as shepherds and preachers. We often ban such a one for life. Never again do we allow such a person to preach. Never again is he allowed to serve as a shepherd. Marred for life. We might tell the person that he is forgiven, but the way we treat a broken disciple sure doesn’t demonstrate it.
We allow prodigals to come home, but we keep our eyes on them. We keep them on a very short leash. We limit what they will do and for some this becomes a lifelong sentence. Forgiven, but sitting on the sidelines. Forgiven, but we don’t want you to touch anything. Forgiven, but just stay out of the way.
And, is it any wonder that those returned prodigals become to wonder if they made the right decision. They came home, but they are treated as lepers and foreigners. The stigma and isolation is enough for some to go back to the far country. It wasn’t that the far country was such a strong pull, instead, it was that home never accepted them again.
Peter was sifted. Peter was run over by the devil. Yet, the Lord was there to pick him up, forgive him and get him right back into service.
The Lord knew…