Peter was a natural leader, bold, courageous, quick to act and willing to speak out. He jumped out of the boat and walked on the water with Jesus. Peter called Him “the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:18-19)
Peter, however, was also headstrong and proud. Only four verses later he rebuked Jesus for saying that he must go to Jerusalem, suffer, die, and be raised on the third day. Jesus then said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt 16:23)
At the last supper Peter argued with the other disciples as to who was the greatest. Jesus told him that Satan had asked to sift him as wheat, to which Peter responded that he would go to prison or even die for Jesus. He then predicted that Peter would deny knowing him three times that night.
When the guards came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. He truly was willing to die protecting his Lord. When Jesus told him to stop, healed the severed ear, and went willingly with the soldiers, all the disciples were confused and ran away. Peter had been prepared to die but not to surrender.
Peter waited outside when Jesus was brought in for questioning. Within a few hours he had indeed denied knowing Jesus three times. However, after the resurrection Jesus restored their relationship. As devastating as it was, Jesus allowed Satan to ‘sift’ Peter through this experience in order to deal with his pride and presumption. Sifting wheat removes the chaff and other weed seeds, making it ready for use as nourishment. Although painful, this process prepared Peter for his leadership role in the Early Church.
In Acts we see him speaking with much humility when the crippled beggar was healed at the temple. He said, “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” (Acts 3:12) *
This week I saw video clips of crowds in America protesting the lockdown measures. Some nurses were even bullied and bruised. It was heart breaking to see that the protesters had placards proclaiming their faith in Jesus. I am praying that the body of Christ will be sifted of this aggressive response, which gives Satan a foothold and makes a mockery of Christ himself.
Violence and hatred are rooted in fear and self-preservation which are the opposite of God’s Kingdom values. Anger flares up at the loss of control, but as Christians we need to recognise this as sin. God is with us and His perfect love casts out fear when we trust in Him.
For all of us, uncertain times can expose what is hidden in our hearts when all is well. Submission to this sifting process is uncomfortable but necessary to perfect our characters and prepare us for what lies ahead.
*Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds
Photo by Emma van Sant on Unsplash