BESSEMER, MI – A Bible passage that is easy to miss because of the cataclysmic events surrounding it, is one we would be wise to remember for the abundant hope it gives to the repentant. In Luke 22: 31-38 we read in the English Standard Version that Satan demanded to have Peter so he might sift him like wheat and that Jesus has prayed for Peter that his faith may not fail.
This is a scary thing. Who among us simple Christians can hope to withstand the provocations of Satan, which not even Peter could manage after being directly discipled and prayed for by Jesus. If Peter is going to bungle his response to Satan's sifting, what are we normal folk going to do when facing similar pressure?
The use of “demand” in the ESV is much more challenging to our sense of faith than the use of “asking” or “desired” in other commonly used translations. If we reference our Greek, which is not my “strong” suit, pun intended, we see the Greek is eksaitéomai or “totally hand over” with a corresponding Strong’s Greek # of 1809, and that this word only occurs in Luke 22: 31. Being the sole place with this verb, we would do well to understand the strength behind Satan's intention to remove Peter from the security of Jesus protection, and bring him into a state of condemnation and loss. Peter, unbeknownst to him, is going to be the site of another cosmic battle between the goodness of God and the wickedness of the devil.
This is not a good place to be for Peter, and as the disciples frequently did, he totally missed the urgency and strength of Jesus' warning. Peter tells Jesus that he is ready to go to prison and even die with him. Peter makes a very bold proclamation of his faith and love of Jesus, and provides us evidence he failed to hear the warning in Jesus words as he did so. Jesus responds by telling Peter he will deny him three times today, affirming the falling, and that it is not the end of the story for Peter or Jesus.
What is easy to miss in this exchange, and I missed it every time I read this story until preparing to preach this text to Catalyst Baptist Church, is the hope Jesus truly offered Peter. First off, Jesus prayed for Peter's faith, knowing full well he was going to stumble and sin. Secondarily, Jesus prayed for his faith in an intercessory manner that when Peter repented of his sin and turned back towards God, Peter would use his experience to strengthen the brothers. God really can get good out of bad and be glorified in the process. Now this is something we can and should all be thankful for.
In our failures and repentance, Jesus still provides the promise of forgiveness and even more, that our failures can be used to actually strengthen others, and lift them up as they face their own sifting by the Devil. Our failures can breed hope and thanksgiving in ourselves and lift others because of the glory and faithfulness of God as it says in 2 Corinthians 4:15, “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ian Minielly, pastor of Catalyst Baptist Church, where I am finding joy again in fostering a drug-exposed bundle of joy with my wife Stephanie the past ten months. Answering God's call to minister and love an orphan, which God our Father accepts as pure and selfless worship is one of the greatest joys of our marriage and Christian walk, now if we can just keep ourselves unstained in the world.