“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren.”
And he said unto him, “Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death.”
And he said, “I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, until thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me” (Luke 22:31-34).
We appreciate the enthusiasm and bravado of Simon Peter. As a disciple, he is a bit impetuous; you can always count on him to chime up when something needs to be said (or doesn’t need to be said). He may not have the best understanding of how Jesus is the Messiah, but he certainly believes it.
We can only imagine how devastating this idea was to him. He was going to deny the Lord? Never! He was going to go even to death for the Lord! He had come this far with Jesus, and he was not about to abandon Him!
The story, however, is all too familiar. Peter sees Jesus taken away by the guards. Initially, his strength does not fail him, for he follows Jesus afar off (Luke 22:54). And then, the moment of crisis! As he sits around the fire, three individuals notice who he is and recognize him as being with Jesus. Satan is sorely testing Peter. Peter knows that if he confesses Christ now, he likely will end up right next to Jesus in front of the Jewish authorities, and will share the fate of His Lord.
Peter’s fears get the best of him. He denies his connection with Jesus all three times (Luke 22:55-62). Satan sifted him like wheat, and he did not withstand it. All Peter can do is go out and weep bitterly.
None of this was new for Jesus; He knew that it would happen. Jesus’ petition was for Peter’s faith not to fail, and while his faith proved too weak this time, it was not entirely defeated. Jesus knew that Peter would “turn again,” and His wish was for Peter to establish his fellow believers.
Had the story of Simon Peter ended here, all would seem to be lost. John 21 records how Jesus restores Peter to Himself and His work. The book of Acts shows how Peter stood up and preached the first Gospel lesson before the Jews in Acts 2 and then boldly stood before the very Jewish authorities who killed Jesus and spoke in His name in Acts 4 and 5. At a later opportunity, Peter would again be called upon to confess Christ and risk death. He would do so and pay the ultimate price (cf. John 21:18-19). Satan tried to sift him like wheat again, but this time he failed!
We may not be in the exact same position as Peter was, but many times our faith is tested. Unfortunately, many times we fail the test. Our faith may not be dead, but it proved too weak for the temptation. As terrible as those moments are, they do not have to be the end of our story. We can repent of our failures, get up, and keep trying (1 John 1:9). Over time, our faith may grow and mature like Peter’s did, and the next time the temptation rears its head, we could stand firm!
Jesus knows our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15) and can sympathize with them. He knows that we will not succeed at overcoming every temptation at every time. Nevertheless, His prayer for us is that our faith will not fail, and that we should turn again, encourage one another, and keep growing in our faith (1 John 1:9, Hebrews 10:24-25, 2 Peter 3:18). Let us be like Peter and grow in our faith!
Ethan R. Longhenry