Lk 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.
Do you feel like this is happening to you?
You may know, in the very next verse – Jesus says He prayed for (Simon) Peter.
32 But I have prayed for you, Simon …
But – do you remember / know what Jesus prayed for? Or what happened next?
This is part 9 in a series of 10 looking at the Lord's Prayer, as given to us in Matthew 6:9-15.
You can view the entire series by clicking on the link just under the title line. Or, you can see the entire series list in the right sidebar.
You may be thinking that Jesus prayed for Peter – so all’s going to be well.
Based on that – we may think that if we pray to Jesus – asking Him to also pray for us – that everything will be well for us too.
However – that’s not what happened. Not even close.
How can that be?
We pray, as Jesus said
Mt 6:13 And lead us not into temptation,
and we expect that nothing bad is going to happen. If we ask for that – God will deliver – right?
The problem may be that we haven’t really understood what’s being asked for. If we look at the word temptation, depending on context, it’s really got different meanings, including –
an internal temptation to sin.
adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God and serving to test or prove one’s character, faith, holiness.
an enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from the desires or from the outward circumstances.
of the condition of things, or a mental state, by which we are enticed to sin, or to a lapse from the faith and holiness.
rebellion against God, by which his power and justice are, as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves. 1)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship
So we see that, in context, some of these temptations come from God and some don’t. It’s also important to note that temptation, by itself, isn’t the problem. It’s when the temptation actually has it’s desired results (from Satan’s point of view) that we have a problem. And, let’s not forget that succumbing to temptation isn’t necessarily the “end” either. God will forgive us – if we ask. It’s the point at which we turn away from God forever that we really truly have failed – big time.
Lead us not into temptation
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.
This is something that Satan has asked for – not that God did to Peter.
So when we hear Jesus say
But I have prayed for you, Simon …
It’s not reasonable to assume that Jesus would pray for this sifting as wheat would not take place. Why would Jesus pray for the exact opposite of something that the Father has just permitted to happen? He wouldn’t! This sifting is going to take place. And just like it took place with Peter – it will take place with us. At least it will if Satan asks for it. And if we give Satan a reason – we can be pretty sure he will be asking for us to be sifted as well. Evidence of this comes from the word “you” in verse 31.
In English, we can’t tell the difference between the singular and plural from the word you. It has to come from context. It’s not unreasonable, based on the wording of these verses, to assume that Jesus meant “you” to be singular – meaning only Peter. But this begs the question, what about the other disciples? Didn’t Satan see them as worthy of sifting as well? Was Peter the only one that was a problem for Satan up to that point? Was Satan assuming that the rest of the twelve were going to just passively live out their lives?
Actually – no. Not at all.
Looking up the original Greek, we find the meaning below –
a reference to the receptors of a message, whether oral or written 2)Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 813). New York: United Bible Societies.
It’s plural. To that end, the 2011 version of the NIV now translates the verse as –
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.
The implication then, is that Satan can and will ask for anyone he sees as potentially getting in his way – making it hard for him to turn people away from God – will ask permission to sift them as wheat.
Further, the implication is that it will be allowed!
But what if we lead ourselves into temptation?
Remember the various possible contexts for the word temptation? Here, we’re going to look at one of them. We’re going to skip what Jesus said right after telling Peter that He was praying for Him. We’ll come back to it – trust me. But it assumes knowledge of events to come – that Jesus certainly knew – but Peter certainly did not know. And we won’t know the events to come in our lives either! So if you know what comes next, try to put it aside for now.
The next verse we look at is –
Lk 22:33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
This could very well be – an internal temptation to sin.
Or maybe – of the condition of things, or a mental state, by which we are enticed to sin, or to a lapse from the faith and holiness.
In any case – it’s a response from Peter – and Peter alone. It’s Peter relying on his own strength – his own bravado – his not being fully aware of what’s going on in the spiritual world and not realizing that by himself, he doesn’t stand a chance. Peter has allowed himself – as we do all the time – to rely on his own strength and knowledge – ignoring the warning that Jesus gave Him. That Jesus is praying for us should tell us that the adversary is quite strong – much more so than we are.
And so in the next verse – Jesus warns Peter again –
Lk 22:34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
And even after that warning – Peter did exactly what Jesus said he would do. Rather than even go to prison, let alone die, Peter lied three times about knowing Jesus. Peter fell for the temptation. He denied Jesus.
Even after Jesus prayed for him.
How can that be?
What did Jesus really pray for?
Jesus did not pray that Peter would avoid the temptation.
He also didn’t pray that Peter would not fall for the temptation.
Lk 22:32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.
What Jesus prayed for us that Peter’s faith would not fail. Yes – Peter may fall victim to the temptation – but it wouldn’t be permanent.
Continuing with the verse that we skipped previously, we read that in fact – Jesus told Peter that he would most certainly fail the test!
And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.
but deliver us from the evil one.
Notice – Jesus doesn’t say something like “if you turn back”.
No – He said “when you turn back”.
Jesus tells Peter that he will be tempted – Satan will succeed in this temptation effort – but Peter will turn back.
In other words – Satan may win this battle – but he will lose the war.
Further – Jesus tells Peter that as a result of this apparent failure – Peter will be even stronger afterwards – and should use his experience to help strengthen his brothers.
If we don’t go through these trials – yes, we can tell others about the power of God to help us get through them without losing the war.
But when we go through them – with the power of God, we can come out the other side of them even stronger than before. And then we can tell others of our actual experiences with God – not just talking about what’s possible.
Matthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
It’s a prayer – not to avoid temptation completely, because we will certainly lead ourselves into enough temptation – plus Satan will probably ask for permission to give us even more temptation – and God may very well provide some testing.
It’s important to remember this from 1 Corinthians –
1Co 10:11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
No matter the source / cause of the temptation – it won’t be more than we can bear. If we ask for – recognize – and use the power He will make available for us if we ask for it – we will be able to get through it.
In other words – if we ask, He will always –
deliver us from the evil one
Are you asking for this?
How about the rest of the prayer?
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship|
|2.||↑||Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 813). New York: United Bible Societies|