Thank you for giving me the privilege of sharing a message from God's Word today. As some of you have learned, I'm originally from West Virginia, but my wife is a native of Missouri; so, if you have any questions, she can help translate for you!

The text for the message is from Luke's Gospel, chapter 22, beginning with verse 24. While you're turning there, I like to set the stage or frame the setting. Remember this event took place in Jerusalem, during our Lord's last Passover. He's going to be taken into judgment and then crucified in a few days. Oddly enough, in spite of His warnings to the disciples many times before, they still didn't grasp His words that He was going to die. We need to remember crucifixion was the worst possible way for anyone to die, and yet that is how our Lord Jesus died so that we might have salvation by grace—alone—and through faith—alone—in Jesus Christ—alone. We don't deserve His salvation, but let us be grateful that He provided this for us.

I'm reading from the New American Standard Version of the Bible:
"And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, 'The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called "Benefactors." But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 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'" (Luke 22:24-32, NASB).

Let's take a look at what the text has for us. Remember that in the immediate context, the disciples were or had been arguing about who was going to be the greatest. We've seen this before, when the mother of James and John came to Jesus and asked Him to grant these boys (!) the privilege of sitting on the right and left hands of Jesus Himself once the kingdom was established. James and John had asked this themselves. We don't know which event took place first; regardless, the other disciples never forgot the event. I'm sure James and John wished the others had forgotten about it!

However, the words of Jesus strangely are directed toward Simon Peter! This may not be surprising, as Peter was usually the mouth or mouthpiece for the disciples. Bless him…Peter was usually one who entered a situation mouth first! He was the disciple who had the insight (from God the Father) to speak up when Jesus asked the disciples, "Who do men say that I am?" in Matthew 16. Some answered one thing or another but Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."

Peter also had the audacity to rebuke Jesus! Take a look at Matthew 16:22: "Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, 'God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.'"

What did Jesus say, in reply? Verse 23: "But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's.'"

So Peter had his insights, blind spots and boldness. Isn't he just like a lot of us? I'm sure a lot of us would have the boldness to rebuke anyone and anything, but few of us would have the courage Peter had to stand before as many as he did and never give up on his faith in Jesus. In fact, anyone who ever becomes a leader, whether by being voted in, simply being the best for the job, or if enough simply look to the leader for guidance—regardless of the case, every leader puts on a shirt that has a giant bulls-eye or target painted right smack-dab on the back. Please pray for whoever becomes your pastor. He's going to be targeted from all sides, and he's going to need your help. Also pray for pastors of other churches and for those churches without pastors so they won't be like sheep without a shepherd.

In light of this, I'm still surprised Jesus turned His attention from the group of disciples to Peter. Matthew Henry in his commentary says that as Peter was the mouthpiece of the group, this time Jesus made him the ear. The first of three statements is directed to Peter and by extension to the group.

The first thing is a statement, "Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded permission…to sift you like wheat…" To me, this is a strange way to address Simon Peter—he was a professional fisherman and maybe didn't know all that much about farming. Likewise, some farmers may not know a lot about deep sea fishing. As for me, I prefer none of the above—I catch my fish at Long John Silver's™ or some other restaurant! Ask me after the service and I'll give you a couple reasons why. Nevertheless, Peter heard Jesus' words and probably wondered what He really was saying.

Maybe the most significant word was sift. Some of us may remember helping our moms bake cookies, cakes, biscuits or whatever. My mom baked on many occasions; for me, one of the most fun things was to help sift! We had a sifter that looked like a one-pound coffee can with a crank on the side; it had a wire mesh screen, and it had a metal ring that turned as you turned the crank. I loved to do that! Now, my mother was very cool and encouraging! I remember one time the instructions read (I thought so, anyway!) to "sift the flour all over," which is exactly what I did! I remember being so happy that I had helped Mom with whatever it was she was baking! She looked at me, and when I explained that I did what the book said to do—Mom, it said to sift all over—she smiled and said, "Honey, you did great, but please, next time, try to keep the flour in the cake pan!"

This isn't the kind of sifting Jesus meant. Dr. George Sweeting, in a "Moody Monthly" article some years back—and others, as well—describe the sifting process as the last step in making wheat ready for consumption. The first step was to reap the grain. No doubt the disciples remembered that afternoon in Samaria (John 4) when Jesus met the woman at the well. The disciples came after she finished speaking, and Jesus said, "Don't they say, four months and then the harvest? I tell you, look on the fields, they are white to harvest already" (John 4:35, paraphrased).

Then the next step was to thresh the grain. This meant the workers would toss the grain into the air, and the wheat and chaff would wind up (ideally) in separate piles. Sometimes this was enough, apparently, for the women to take the grain and grind it using their millstones—but this wasn't the final step. The last step was to take the grain into a tumbler, perhaps with a sieve, so the impurities would be removed and the grain staying in place. This is what Jesus meant—that Satan wanted to take Peter and get him so jumbled up, so tossed and turned, so beat up and beat down, that he would feel unworthy to serve.

We face the same things today. In so many ways, Satan whispers—if not shouts—that because of one or more sins, we've automatically become useless for God. He'll tell us things such as, "You are useless. God won't use you anymore. Give up! You won't account for anything. You blew it! Do you really think God wants you back? You are nothing, nobody! You may as well just give up. You think He is going to forgive you? After what you did?" Oh, how he tries to discourage us. Yet every time we remember we are forgiven and claim 1 John 1:9, remembering Jesus Himself is our Advocate, we receive cleansing and forgiveness. I love that concept—advocate in this context, means "defense attorney"; every time the devil accuses me of something, Jesus says, "That is true, but that sin is forgiven!" God the Father, the Judge, says, "Dismissed! Next case!" What a Savior!

Now not only did Jesus plainly say Satan wanted to have Peter, He didn't stop there. He also said, "But I have prayed for you…" This is amazing: Jesus prayed for Peter, and He is praying for us, too! Hebrews contains a verse, speaking of Jesus as High Priest: "He ever lives to make intercession for us" (Heb. 7:25, paraphrased). How many times have we come close to injury, accidents, maybe death, but because our Lord Jesus Christ had, has and still prays for us, we've been kept safe—and alive! What a Savior!
In the final saying, Jesus says, "When once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." The King James Version says, "When thou art converted," which some people apparently have misunderstood. I think Peter already was a converted man in that he had believed in Jesus as his Lord and Savior. The term converted doesn't always mean "born again," but has other meanings, according to Strong's Concordance and other aids.

Let me give you an illustration. How many of you like bluegrass music? One of my favorite TV shows features 30 minutes of bluegrass and bluegrass gospel. One episode was filmed at Dr. Ralph Stanley's home in southwest Virginia. The scenery was beautiful and made me homesick, I have to confess! They sang a couple of numbers, and I remember thinking that even the dog (there was a black or black-and-tan dog shown in the footage) listened. After a couple of songs, the dog still hadn't moved! The dog's tail neither had twitched, nor had he licked his lips. He didn't even move his head! Those of you who have dogs know they tend to move their heads when they hear or notice something—not this one. Then the camera angle changed, and I could see the dog seemed to have a glass eye. This was a stuffed dog! It was a prop! So many people have a faith or salvation that is about as real as that stuffed dog! It isn't authentic!

Peter's faith was real, and he certainly didn't intend to deny Jesus. Yet, that is exactly what happened. Each of the gospels tell the story of how Peter followed "afar off"; that he stood by the fire with Christ's enemies; that he cursed, swore and denied he knew Jesus. Then, Jesus turned His eyes on Peter—Jesus had heard it all, seen it all and knew what was going to happen. How it must have hurt Him when it all happened. Peter wept bitterly. He was being sifted like wheat. We wonder, "What went through his mind?" We may never know.

There is one thing we do know, something we can be absolutely sure of: Peter received forgiveness! He received restoration! So many times in the New Testament, we read how he followed our Lord and did, indeed, strengthen his brothers.

We could make many applications here, but the biggest thing to remember is that Satan didn't stop at Peter. He tried—and I think succeeded with him. Now he has his eyes on you, me and everyone who is a believer in Jesus. Also, remember Jesus is praying for us even now. Don't forget to pray for others, too, They need it. Finally, remember that when we are converted, when the Lord gets us right with Him, when we have turned away from sin, then and only then can we strengthen our brothers. If I am in a backslidden condition, or if I'm not living for God, there is no way I can strengthen anybody; but when I get right with God, there is a chance the Lord may use me to strengthen my brothers.

My prayer is that we all would look for opportunities, as well as make some, so we can do this very thing.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Share This On: