31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
Thoughts: This is a wonderful, comforting passage of God's grace. Jesus is preparing his leading disciple for the trouble ahead. Christ is trying to encourage Peter who will be devastated that he denies him three times. He does so by telling him He 1) foresees it- and therefore is in control of it; 2) He prays for Peter (and Peter has seen that his prayers are effectual); 3) that Peter will turn back- (love the "when" here); 4) that Peter has a purpose- strengthening the Church. Peter thinks his faith is strong and he will never fail, but Jesus tells him the specifics of when he will fail.
Many good Christians are dismayed when a leader falls. Leaders are dismayed when they fall too. Unbelievers make fun of Christian leaders for failing. Even the Church- which should be full of grace- is not so gracious to those who fall. We need to try to be as gracious as Christ- who did not just get angry at Peter (and he had every right to be), but sought even before it happened to gently restore him.
Judas betrayed Christ but never came back. He was full of guilt and remorse- but not repentance. Peter denied Christ but came back. Christ's words to him here probably helped him get over his remorse and regret so that he could do something positive with his life after his failure.
We all will fail in some ways. But Christ prays for us (Rom. 8:34).
Prayer: Thank you God, that you lead us in our journey despite our failures. Thank you for your prayers and the hope found in your grace. Give me grace to be gracious to others as you have been gracious to me.
John Calvin abridged: Christ declares they will have a contest with Satan, but at the same time say they will obtain the victory. It is highly useful to us to know that our struggle is not just against flesh and blood, but also Satan's snares (Eph. 6:12). The "sifting as wheat" is not a sifting for purification (as in other passages), but represents a shaking almost to the point of breaking. Peter's false confidence in his virtue carries him into foolish boasting. Peter erred in 1) relying on himself instead of God's promises; and 2) he shut his eyes to his own weakness. Everey person ought to be aware of their weaknesses and rely on the Holy Spirit. We also should not take more to ourselves than the Lord leads us to do or say. Too many enter into the field of battle over-zealous like drunken soldiers- who start boldly- but when the drunkeness wears off can do nothing but flee. Nothing is more fading or transitory than inconsiderate zeal.