Jesus prophesied Simon Peter’s future failure and restoration in two, simple sentences. He said that Peter would fall but also that he would rise up again. Some versions say that Satan ‘demanded’ to sift Peter and his companions and others say he simply ‘asked.’ Whether he asked or demanded, it doesn’t change the outcome, because history shows that all twelve disciples were surely sifted. One even fell, beyond redemption.
What I love about this statement of Jesus is the hope message He placed in the middle of this dark prediction. Jesus said to Peter, “When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers”. Jesus did not say if you turn back, but when you turn back. The word ‘when’ in this context, equals hope of restoration after failure.
With all this aside, my next question is why Jesus allowed this spiritual attack in the first place. Was it really necessary? I think it was, because Jesus had a much bigger picture in mind. He knew that Peter would temporarily stumble, but He had prayed for him, and He also knew that he would rise back up again and become influential in the early Church. This fisherman with calloused hands would be filled with Holy Spirit boldness after the resurrection and preach a sermon at Pentecost that would see the ushering of multitudes into the kingdom. But before this could happen there was a work that needed to be done in Peter and it could well have been in the area of fear and self-reliance.
Peter believed that he would be able to stand by Jesus, no matter what happened or whatever danger he personally faced. However, Peter could not stand firm in his conviction. He even denied his Lord and Master, rather than be known as one of his disciples.
I well identify with Peter as I have also bowed to intimidation and run away when I should have stood firm. And sometimes I have depended on my own strength and understanding. With good reason Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Luke11:4). Without God we are all easy pickings for the enemy.
Peter’s intention was to stand faithfully by Jesus, and he believed that he had the backbone necessary to do so. In an earlier verse he declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not”. But Jesus knew Peter even better than Peter knew himself. Yes, Peter would fall – that was a given – but, with God’s help, he would rise up again and strengthen his brothers. He would also be changed for the better by the experience and walk before God with a little more humility (Micah 6:8) and self-understanding.
A similar thing happened with the Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). It was a painful experience for Peter but a life changing one also. This spiritual attack had been used by God to purify Peter’s character. He went into the furnace and came out as pure gold. The experience did not kill him but rather made a better man out of him. It was not punishment, but a testing that would bring good fruit in the coming days and years. Peter became an overcomer, and so can we.
It may be that God allows something unpleasant in your life with a beneficial purpose in mind. He is a good Father, who works all things together for our welfare (Romans 8:28). And, as He did for Peter, Jesus also intercedes for each of us (Romans 8:34). I find that fact amazing.
Prayer: Father God, I don’t always understand if You have permitted some testing times in my life, but I choose to trust You today. Thank You that You are a good, good, good, good God and only allow that which will be beneficial in the end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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