A story that readily comes to mind is that of a man who always said, “This is good” to everything that happened to him. On a certain day, he went with his friend (a King) on a hunting trip and he loaded the guns whilst the king did the shooting. Evidentially, he loaded one gun wrongly and when it went off, it shot the king’s thumb off. On groping the situation, the friend in his usual way, said, “This is good”. On hearing this, the King was livid and he cast his friend into confinement saying, “No, this is not good”.
About a year later, the King went on another hunting trip and this time to an area where there were cannibals. The cannibals captured and apprehended him, tied his hands and feet to a stake with the intention to cook him for dinner. As they came nearer, they found the King was without a finger. By this and their superstitious belief, which meant they never ate anyone less than whole (all body parts had to be intact), they had no choice but to set the King free.
On the King’s return home, he felt guilty about putting his friend in jail for a year so he goes to the jail and apologizes to his friend. He narrated his experience with the cannibals to his friend and said “I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long, it was bad of me to have done this”. His friend replied saying “No, this is good” and the King asked: how do you mean, this is good? “How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?” The friend replied, “If I had not been in jail, I would have been with you”.
Today, we stumble on the story of a conversation between Jesus and the Devil regarding one of Jesus’s disciple; this being Peter. One would wonder why this can still happen however, if you recall, it was when Jesus was in the wilderness, they had a conversation and Satan came back again to have a tête-à-tête entreating. He asked Jesus if he could mess with one of his own; He asked to sift Simon Peter as wheat. Jesus agreed and he immediately told Peter.
This request would remind the bible student about a similar conversation that took place between God and the Devil regarding Job. God agreed that the devil could try His child Job. For God to agree that Job can be tested, it would mean he was ready for the next phase of his life. I am persuaded that if the reverse were the case, the devil would not have been given the go ahead to try and test Job.
Hence, for Christ to accept the demands of Satan, Peter must have been prepared. Satan did not ask for anyone but Peter, in order to see if he would apostatize. He must have attained a certain level in his spiritual life and besides Jesus knew the time was right for the test. It is important to note, that this test will be based on God’s timing and the information presented in the volumes of the Book. Therefore, Satan would need the counsel of Heaven before he comes to you; coming to you without heavenly consent, would be an abuse of heavenly protocol and order.
The metaphor applied in the case of the testing is the ‘sifting as wheat’. What readily comes to ones mind is the wheat farmer on his farm. The farmer sifts the wheat in readiness for the sale of the wheat. What he does first, is to spread the wheat on the floor then, he begins the beating by using a tool called flail – which is based on the threshing process.
The second step after the beating of the wheat is based on a process called winnowing. This is when the wheat is thrown in the air and the wind blows away the lighter chaff, while the good stuff would fall back down to the ground. Obviously there is a separation between what is valuable and what is not valuable; implying the wheat sifting is necessary because it is for a purpose.
At this juncture I am able to summarize by injecting the fact that in Peter, there was a combination of the valuable and the invaluable parts of him. If Peter had to be prepared for future use, then the sifting would be necessary. The valuable part of Peter could be likened to the wheat and the invaluable part, likened to the lighter chaff. It therefore means Jesus needed a Judas to betray him for the intended future purposes (the reason why He came into planet earth). Peter also needed someone to help in the sifting process and the only one that could be used for the process was the devil.
Jesus immediately told Peter about the conversation he just had and advised Peter that He (Jesus) had prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail him. Everything might fail but our faith should never fail. When faith fails, that’s the end! As for Peter, somethings were about to fall off him and physically speaking, they might not be good. The sifting experience might not be easy on Peter; it might be a sad experience for him. However, the consolation in this case is that Jesus permitted the sifting and therefore it will end well.
Jesus knew what the result would be. He told Peter, when the invaluable has been removed and the valuable remains; Peter would have become someone new. There would have been a change. The Peter that went through a sifting process cannot be the same Peter afterwards. So, Jesus told him to strengthen the brothers and sisters around him. To say this differently, make use of the bitter experience you are going to have to bring strength to other people around you, Peter!
This will be the first time this would happen to Peter and definitely he was not sure of what to expect or in what form it would come to him. So much so he told Jesus he was ready to go to prison and even die for Jesus. Little did he know that this time, it was not about Jesus, but about him. He was inundated about when the test and trial will come. Jesus told him that the trial would come just before the day dawns; in the darkest hour of the night, before the crowing of the cock.
When it is dark, things are obscure; one would not be able to see properly. It could also mean ignorance; it could mean trial et al. Charles Spurgeon was right when he said “Can you see Jesus in the dark? Yes. We sometimes see him better in the dark than in the light. If you go outside during the daytime and look up, you will not be able to see a single star; but if you get into the bucket of a well, and go down into darkness, very soon you will behold the stars. To descend may sometimes be the shortest way to ascend.
Peter was going to be tried at the darkest hour of his life. He has never been through this before, so the resource(s) to deal with that hour he does not have; not to talk of knowing what to do or what will befall him.
The test was that Jesus was going to be taken away from him. All the while he had always enjoyed the presence of Jesus (physically) with him in all situations and circumstances. It is now time to keep enjoying the same Jesus but without His physical presence. For instance, when the wind blew against the boat, Jesus was there to rebuke the wind. When Lazarus died, Jesus was there to raise him up. Now its time to take the test so that he can advance to the next level of spirituality where he can begin to live out “where two or three are gathered together in his name, He would be there in the midst of them”.
The Jews picked up Jesus and here comes Peter, following him from afar. This had never happened to him, walking around without Jesus. He could not at this time say ‘Master, if that is you, ask me to come to you walking in the realm of the miraculous’. We see Peter differently like a dog that has its tail between its legs; he followed from a distance. One can begin to imagine the things going through his mind as it was indeed the darkest hour of his life.
A woman saw him and asked if he was ever with Jesus, he denied, incase he might be attacked by those around him. There was a second question about his relationship with Jesus; and he denied a second time. Still battling with how to handle this strange crisis, the circumstance he was faced with had obliterated all that Jesus had told him. Nothing brought back to his cognizance that he had denied Jesus twice. The third question came about his relationship with Jesus and again Peter denied. And the woman said you even speak like him and how could you be with him for three years and not speak like him? At this point, the crowing of the cock was heard and Jesus from where he stood looked back and saw Peter as the sifting experience ended. The day had dawned because cocks would always crow at dawn.
Peter’s desire was to do the truth but the power to do the truth was not there because of the nature of Sin in him. He really did not want to leave Jesus but the situation presented before him was enormous and he could not do that which he really wanted to do.
Are you groaning in your pain, are you faced with enormous situations? It might just be a time for your sifting and God must have permitted it. I can guarantee that it will be worth it at the end of the episode. Jesus counted Peter as one he could trust with the flock of God. God is counting on you as you go through your times, when the invaluable is separated from the valuable.
Let me conclude by quoting from Charles Haddon Spurgeon: “Pain insist upon being attended to, God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”.
God had planned this even before the world began. You will win when it ends assuredly, I am very confident of that.