Jesus' conversation with Peter in Luke 22:31-34 fascinates me. I can't help but wonder why God would give Satan an audience with Himself. And based on the events that follow, it appears that God grants Satan his request! Imagine there is a knock at your front door and you discover that the individual standing there is someone you know with certainty is trying to destroy your children. You invite them inside as your wife is coming around the corner. She exclaims, "What are you doing!" And you say, "I think we should at least hear what he has to say." Now I don't know about your house but at that point, I am now outside knocking on the door!
The act of sifting was an agricultural process of separating at harvest the useful, consumable portion from the parts that would be discarded. Satan's implication is that some of the disciples were not worthy and the only reason they had been faithful to date was because God was an overly protective parent. Satan is challenging their character. He wants to be given access to them to prove their "faith will fail." The Expositor's Bible Commentary points out that "you" in verse 31 is plural in the Greek (hymas) which reveals Jesus' warning to Peter is for all the disciples. But then in verse 32 "you" is singular in the Greek (sou) so Jesus' focus has now shifted to Peter directly. Does this mean God only granted Satan access to Peter? Does this mean Jesus did not pray for the other disciples? Does this mean I should take a morning break and drive to Krispy Kreme to see if the hot sign is on (sorry I was momentarily distracted)? Because Luke is the only Gospel writer that gives us the details of this conversation, we are left with several questions because Luke does not offer any further explanation.
The truth I draw from this exchange is that we must remember there is difference between failing in a moment and failing in our faith. I am writing this morning because I believe that someone reading this has failed in some moment in their past and has been held captive by their mistake. You have believed a lie from Satan that because you failed in a moment, overcome by some temptation, became weak resulting in some indiscretion...you feel as though you have failed in faith. Watch the transition from the beginning of verse 32 to the second half. Jesus says that he has prayed for Peter that his faith should not fail. And then Jesus goes on to say, "So when you have repented and turn to me again..." So if Jesus prays for Peter, shouldn't that be enough? If Jesus prays for Peter to not fail in his faith, why would Peter need to repent? Not failing in his faith does not equate to resisting the temptation. Not failing in our faith means that we don't abandon our pursuit of being a disciple of Jesus when we fail in resisting temptation! Faith does not keep us perfect in moments of temptation! Faith moves us to repent when we fail. And we will all fail! Sometimes those failings are when we do the bad things we shouldn't do and sometimes those failings are when we don't do the good things we ought to do. Failing in our faith means we don't repent. We don't accept responsibility for failing. We don't ask for God's forgiveness or the forgiveness of others if our failing involved people. We don't work to build personal accountability into our lives to be better prepared for temptation next time. We don't...and the list continues...that is failing in our faith. Failing in a moment is inevitable. What we do in the aftermath of those moments determines if we fail in our faith. That was Jesus' prayer and if we read Acts chapter 2 then we know Jesus' prayer from Luke 22 was effectual...because there we find Peter giving the very first sermon of the Christian Church!
I love that Jesus tells Peter that after he repents and returns to his pursuit of being a disciple of Jesus, his priority should be the strengthen his brothers, the other disciples. If you disengage for the being in community from other disciples, this too is failing in your faith. Discipleship isn't just about my relationship with Jesus! It is also about my relationship with other disciples! If I isolate myself from Jesus, resist Him, run from Him...I am failing in my faith. If I repent and turn to Him but isolate myself from other disciples of Jesus, resist them, rum from them...I am still failing in my faith. Failing in moments are not failing in faith unless I allow them to rob me of being reconciled to Jesus and being restored to community!
Satan wants to sift each of us. Jesus is continually praying for each of us. Satan is great at temptation...Jesus is even better at prayer. We are all going to fail in moments...but we never have to fail in our faith!