The Sifting of Peter the Apostle


We are continuing our meditation of the conversation at the Last Passover supper of Jesus and His disciples the night before Christ was crucified (Scroll down for previous meditations). Jesus gave a shocking prophetic word to Simon, also called Peter:

31"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." 33But he replied, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." 34Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me" (Luke 22:31-34).

We suggested yesterday that Peter might have been the one that caused the dispute at the table about who was the greatest among them. It is possible this was caused by Judas seating himself in the place of honor beside Jesus. The Lord spoke to Peter using the name he used to be known as—Simon. Peter was behaving like the selfish, brash, argumentative person he was before he met Christ, had his name changed, and began walking with Christ. In those days, a word or phrase was spoken twice when it was emphasized: “Simon, Simon.”

Now that the Lord was leaving to be with the Father, He needed Peter to be the rock and strength to the others. However, there was one more lesson or test that Peter had to experience, i.e., a lesson designed to break him as the potter breaks the pot to remold it again on the wheel (Jeremiah 18:4). Peter had to go through the experience of being broken for God to shape him into a vessel of honor that God could use to preach powerfully on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus said that Satan wanted to sift Peter.

What does it mean to be sifted? The word picture is of harvested wheat shaken on a sieve. In those days, the sheaves of wheat were taken from the harvest fields to a threshing floor usually situated on a hill, where a threshing instrument, a large wooden trolley pulled by oxen, was dragged over it to separate the wheat kernels from the stalks. When a strong enough breeze was blowing, the whole mess was thrown in the air with a pitchfork. The wind blew most of the chaff away while the heavier kernels fell into the middle of the pile. Then, the sifting process began with a good shaking in the sieve. The wheat fell through, but the stones and chaff stayed in the sieve. The shaking in the sieve, perhaps, was indicative of what was soon to take place in the high priest’s courtyard. Peter would be challenged three times by being asked if he was a disciple of Christ. He failed the three-time test by responding in the negative.

Perhaps Peter’s pride needed to be broken before God could greatly use him. Satan’s purpose was for Peter to be rejected as unwanted chaff. The Lord told him that He had prayed for him so that his faith would not fail. Have there been times in your life when your faith was shaken? What kind of events has been the most challenging for your faith? There are times in our lives when God allows a situation uniquely designed to shake our faith and separate the chaff, which is useless, from our character. It was not a coincidence that three people would recognize Peter while he stood around the fire outside the chief priest's house after Christ was arrested. Perhaps, the situation was designed by God to break Peter's heart. Peter thought that he was strong enough and that he had what it took to lead the apostles. Hadn't Jesus said to Peter that upon this rock He would build His Church? What about you? What situations are you going through that challenge your character or faith? I pray that you come through the sifting as wheat and not blown away like chaff. Keith Thomas

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke. Click on study 59. The Last Supper