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The Sifting of Peter the Apostle

We are continuing our meditation of Jesus' conversation with the disciples at the Last Passover supper the night before He was crucified. 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 may have been the one that caused the dispute at the table about who was the greatest among them. This argument may have been caused by Judas being seated in honor to the left of Jesus. The Lord spoke to Peter using the name he used to be known as—Simon. Peter was behaving like the selfish, reckless, argumentative person he was before Christ changed his name. In those days, when a person wanted to emphasize something, it was spoken twice: “Simon, Simon.”

Now that Jesus was leaving to be with the Father, He needed Peter to be a 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). God wanted to shape Peter into a vessel of honor that He 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 farmers took the sheaves of grain 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 the husks to separate the wheat kernels from the stalks. When a strong breeze was blowing, they threw the whole mess into 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. Perhaps the shaking in the sieve was indicative of what was soon to take place in the high priest's courtyard, where three times he was 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 significantly use him. Satan’s purpose was for Peter to be rejected as unwanted chaff. The Lord told him that He had prayed for him that his faith would not fail. Have there been times in your life when your faith was shaken? What kind of events has been allowed by God to shake your faith? There are times in our lives when God allows a situation uniquely designed to shake our faith and separate the useless chaff from our character. It was not a coincidence that after Christ was arrested, three people would question Peter while he stood around the fire outside the chief priest's house. Perhaps God designed the whole situation 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 for you to come through the sifting as wheat and not blown away like chaff. Keith Thomas

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


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