“And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’” Luke 22:31–32

We seem to be prone to difficulties in this life. As Eliphaz said, in Job 5:7, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” If anyone has told you that life was neat and easy, he was lying. The consequence of troubles seems to grow with age and responsibility. This is the common experience of mankind living as fallen men in a fallen world.

All genuine believers also know that there are times when the valleys through which we pass seem to be darker than the experiences common to the average man. They follow one after another almost as if there is an unseen, malevolent hand strategically placing the next deep, dangerous ravine just over the rise you are toiling to overcome. Thank the Lord for Psalm 23 and the assurance of the presence of our Kinsman Redeemer! Are there more indications of the work of our Savior in the darkest of our days? Absolutely!

The setting of Luke 22 is the upper room just before our Lord’s sacrificial death upon the cross. The institution of Communion has been pronounced as the Passover meal was observed. Judas has exited the room on his quest to arrange the final details of the Lord’s betrayal. The rest of the disciples continue a debate as to who among them would be the greatest in the Lord’s Kingdom. Somehow the lesson our Lord illustrated in washing their feet (that greatness is found in service) had eluded them (John 13:1–17). Our Lord graciously took control of the group discussion and directed their thoughts toward practical spirituality once more.

In verses 31 and 32 He displays His pastoral care as He expertly introduced the prophecy concerning Peter and his denial of the Lord in His impending trial (vs. 33ff). Jesus has talked as the King of His Kingdom, He will soon be exercising His office of Prophet concerning Peter’s denial, and He is acting in the office of Priest in His intercession for His own.

He calls out Simon Peter’s name, twice. It is quite a poignant moment—much as anyone calls out to a dear friend demanding immediate attention, or as a mother repeats her child’s name, fervently preparing to express a deeply felt emotion or thought. In Peter’s case, as well as the rest of the disciples, it was imperative that they relinquish their cherished conversations among themselves and listen intently.

The next words must have shocked the men. Jesus revealed that Satan (the adversary) “has asked for you [plural] that he may sift you as wheat!” The Greek construction indicates that not only did Satan desire to hold sway over the remaining disciples but he had actually obtained it by asking! (Shades of Job 1:6–12 and 2:1–6!) Satan had apparently asked for the freedom to sift the disciples. His intentions in doing so were not honorable like a woman would winnow the grain breaking the husks away from the rich kernel to the benefit of her household. Satan had no desire to make the disciples better disciples. It is certain his desire was to scatter them across the face of the earth so that they may wither away and never more be noted—divide, pulverize, and conquer. Amos 9:9 sheds light on God’s ultimate protection of His own, “For surely I will command, and will sift the house of Israel among all nations, as grain is sifted in a sieve; yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground.”

Despite the terror that would befall the disciples as they get sifted through trials, notice that all Satan has power to do is sift, he cannot blind them to truth, deprive them of usefulness, crush them of resolve, change their fellowship with God, make them unloved by their Lord, or rob them of their precious salvation. This does not mean that Satan is toothless. 1 Peter 5:8 states, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour [drink down].” Take note: Our Lord teaches His disciples to pray, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13).

Thank our Lord for His next words, “But I have prayed for you [singular, Peter] that your faith should not fail [give out completely].” He continues His conversation with Peter by assuring him of His intercession. Faith stands as the shield in the believer’s armor: “Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts [missiles] of the wicked one.” The promise is “all” fiery missiles. It is imperative that Peter’s faith does not give out and our Lord intercedes accordingly.

If the rest of the disciples were listening to our Lord’s words I am sure they must have taken note of the specific nature of His prayer for Peter as well as His love for them. Our Lord’s intercession concerning Peter was with them in mind, “and when you have returned to Me, strengthen [establish, firm] your brethren.” The assurance that Peter would turn about (modify—as industry converts materials) brought great assurance that in the darkest hour of trial, God has a plan to uphold them even when they can see no earthly means of support. Face your trials with a strong faith in the Lord’s promises! Perhaps you are the one God will use to strengthen others (2 Chronicles 16:9). Trust and obey.