“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Saturday’s Bible reading is Luke 21–22. In these chapters Luke begins his account of the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel records of Simon Peter’s denial, the above words of Jesus to Peter are found only in Luke.
God’s sovereignty is clearly seen in these verses because it’s evident that Satan cannot act without God’s permission. In the question of why God allowed Satan to do this, we cannot know all the reasons; we must trust Him for the backstory. In Job 1–2, God lets us see the backstory of Job’s suffering. Although Job’s suffering did not occur because of any sin in his life, because there was a backstory to Job’s terrible afflictions, we can be assured there is a backstory to God allowing Peter’s sifting and to our own suffering.
As Jesus talks with Peter, He tells Peter He has prayed for him that his faith will not fail. In saying to Peter, “when once you have turned again,” Peter has assurance from Jesus that His prayers will be answered. Peter does immediately brush off the possibility that he could deny Christ, but what Jesus says to him are words of hope he can remember.
Jesus also tells him, “…you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” This hard experience of sin and its consequences is something Jesus wants Peter to use for the good of others.
I’ve often thought that it’s no coincidence that Peter wrote a letter in the New Testament that speaks to our suffering. In 1 Peter he writes of our hope and the purpose to our suffering (1:5–7); he writes with encouragement to bear up under unjust suffering and not to sin (2:19–25, 3:13–17), warning of our adversary, the devil (5:8–9), having compassion for our bewilderment and fears (4:12–13, 5:6–7), and giving us courage to persevere (5:9–10). In his commentary on 1 Peter, Edmund Clowney writes:
“…his message of the living hope in Christ has its background in his despair at the crucifixion, and his joy in fellowship with the risen Christ. His emphasis on humility has poignant meaning after the boasting that preceded his fall.”1
In the story of Peter’s denial there is sin and remorse, and there is also the compassion and mercy of God. The man who denied Christ out of fear of mockery would later write words to those who suffer to stay the course, fixed on their hope:
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 1:13
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Peter’s Denial, Carl Bloch: Public Domain.
1Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, 1988, p. 21.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter