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The Sifting of Peter the Apostle

We continue our meditation on 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 who caused the dispute at the table about who was the greatest among them. This argument may have been caused by Judas seated in honor to the left of Jesus. The Lord spoke to Peter using the name he used to be known as—Simon. Peter behaved like a selfish, reckless, argumentative person 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 Peter had to experience, i.e., a lesson designed by God to break him as the potter breaks the pot to remold it again on the wheel (Jeremiah 18:4). The Lord wanted to mold Peter's character to be a vessel of honor and use him to preach powerfully on the Day of Pentecost. Satan also had a plan for Peter; he wanted to sift him as wheat.

What does it mean to be sifted? The word picture Jesus gave 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. They threw the whole mess into the air with a pitchfork when a strong breeze blew. 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.

It could be that 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, but the Lord told Peter He had prayed for him for his faith not to fail. Have there been times in your life when your faith was shaken? What events has God allowed into your life to shake your faith? Sometimes, in our lives, God allows a situation uniquely designed to shake our faith and separate the useless chaff from our character. I don't believe it was a coincidence that three people questioned Peter about his faith in Christ while Peter stood around the fire in the high priest's courtyard. Perhaps God designed the whole situation to break Peter's heart. Peter thought he was strong enough and had what it took to lead the apostles. Hadn't Jesus told Peter that He would build His Church upon this rock? What about you? What situations are you going through that challenge your character or faith? I pray you come through the sifting as wheat and not blown away like chaff. Keith Thomas

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


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