“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to SIFT you like wheat.”
I had read the above many times prior, but on this day, this verse from Luke 22 hit me like a ton of bricks. No, actually, I think it was 2 tons of bricks. Let’s begin by looking at what leads up to this statement by Jesus.
- Luke 22 begins by telling us that it is Passover season and that the religious leaders are seeking Jesus to kill him.
- Judas begins to scheme and plan with these leaders on how he will deliver Jesus to them.
- Jesus celebrates the Passover with his disciples and institutes the Lord’s supper.
- Next, the disciples have a ridiculous argument over which of them is the greatest.
This is some of the context for our “sifting” text. Let’s read it in full below:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-34 ESV)
We typically focus more at the end of these verses but I want to draw your attention to the beginning.
Satan Demands To….
I don’t like the sound of that. How are we to think of Satan making demands like this? More on that in a moment.
What we need to notice here is not initially obvious in our English translations. In the original Greek the word “you” – as in – “… he has demanded to have you…” is plural not singular. He has demanded to have you means all of you. So, the first thing we need to see here in Luke is things are worse than we first thought! As a disciple of Christ, you are a part of the “you”.
I wonder, have you ever been there or are you there – feeling like you are being sifted? I have, and you probably have also. It is not pleasant! It can feel hopeless, and it can seem that we are helpless and alone in the sifting. And, how is it that this sifting comes just after something so glorious – the disciples just celebrated Passover with Jesus. What a roller coaster. Have you been there? One day is the highest of highs and the next is the lowest of lows.
How are we to think of being sifted?
Where is God when we are being sifted?
Does He care?
Has He left us to ourselves, alone, and helpless?
The sifting appears to be related to our faith. Jesus tells Peter that He has prayed for him that his faith would not fail. Have you wrestled with the kind of sifting that tempts you toward “failing faith”?
John Piper helps us to consider God’s work in the sifting.
“I think the reason God permits Satan to persist in his “sifting” work is that in the end it will be good for the church and will bring more glory to God. It’s clear from the whole NT that God intends to bring the bride of Christ to perfection through affliction and temptation (1 Peter 1:6; 3:17). We must suffer with Christ if we would be glorified with him (Romans 8:17). Through suffering and trial our faith is refined. We are drawn to rely ever more heavily on God, and we are moved to cherish his grace more strongly. Satan has his role to play in fanning the flames of our refining furnace, and so God awaits the appointed day of judgment.” John Piper
What does this mean as we consider “sifting”? It means there is purpose, there is hope, and it means we are not alone and helpless!
As Satan comes to sift you (plural), by bringing you to failing faith, imagine this….Jesus prays for you! How incredible is that? Christ, the Savior, the Son of God, prays for you! He is not overwhelmed, though the religious leaders are seeking to kill him and one of His disciples will betray Him. No, in the midst of it all, He prays for you! He is not too busy, He is not distracted, He prays for you! Peter will sinfully deny Him, and yet, even that is not a distraction, Christ prays for Him and you! If you belong to Christ, He will never let Satan destroy your faith and you will never be brought to ruin. Why? Because He prays for you!
And so, where we are tempted to fear “Satan demands to have you…” we find a greater hope in “But, I have prayed for you…” Which of these two phrases are you drawn to?
What a glorious thing it is for us to consider that in the midst of Satan’s demands, Christ prays for us!
The lowest low soon becomes the highest high. Circumstantially, nothing changed for Peter. He STILL went on to deny Christ. And yet, He was never alone and neither are you!
“Sifted like wheat, but I have prayed for you…”