Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial: Luke 22: 31-32
31 And the Lord said,[a] “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest that when Peter rebuked Jesus, it was because he thought he knew where his testing would come, but it came in a place he didn’t expect, and he wept bitterly because he failed so miserably.
Indeed, all of the Apostles swore loyalty, but when the hour came, they fled. We see our Lord sorrowful that they would not even stay up to pray for Him, as they were heavy with food and drink, coupled with doubt and not comprehending the things that Jesus said would occur.
But as I often write, Peter is perhaps the most relatable disciple, because his walk with Christ is as intense, volatile, and prone to error as our own. Jesus, in fact, implies it is Satan who speaks through Peter as the hour approaches, and Jesus rebukes not Peter, but the tempting spirit speaking through him. “This will surely not happen to You.”
It was Jesus’ own hope that the Father pass the cup of sin and gall to find a sweeter way, but He set aside His glory and desire to be spared to obey the Father.
We’re not told when Satan asked to sift Peter, to really see what he was made of, as he sifted Job. But just as God was certain in Job’s steadfastness despite his laments, Christ was equally sure of Peter’s shakiness despite his claims of steadfastness. We see in verse 32 that in fact that He already knows what Peter will do, just as he knew what Judas would do. Peter would deny Christ before men, to the point of cursing those in the crowd who insisted they’d seen him with Jesus.
It is the ultimate act of love in what Jesus not only says to Peter, but to us in our most wretched state in the lifelong war between flesh and soul,
“When you have returned to Me…”
This is a statement we are to cling to, for our Savior tells us that if we deny Him before men, He will deny us before the Father. This is why the Word admonishes to seek Him while He may yet be found. No one is redeemed faithless and unrepentant from the grave.
“When you have returned to Me…” The lost sheep is never banned from the flock, because those who follow know His voice. There is no place else to go, as we find so often in our wanderings to other temples and idols, for He alone has the words of life and truth.
As the Father grants the prayers of the Son, there is yet time for Peter to receive the keys to Heaven, and so Jesus prays not only for his return, but commands him to strengthen his brothers.
Satan has planted his tares, and will sift the saints in the last days, but it is Christ and His angels who will reap the last harvest, and there will be nothing left to glean. As John the Baptist tells us,
12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3).
Our Lord would not have His most tempestuous, impetuous disciple be chaff; As the angel said to Mary, “Go and tell the disciples, and Peter…” (Mark 16:7)
As Peter’s denial was threefold, so was his path to restoration, as the Lord asked him three times after the Resurrection:
“Peter, do you love me more than these?” (John 12:15)
We answer, as he did, in all our failings: “Lord, You know that I love You.”
Therefore I pray:
My Lord and Savior, my heart is grieved that Your inquiry should so pierce my heart, because I have done in deed that which made You have to ask. Under the covenant of grace, I would see myself returned and restored to you, and redeemed spotless again in the Father’s eyes.
I would have my own spirit rejoicing again in Your presence, my place in the Kingdom of Heaven assured, my crown still bright, my works unconsumed as wood, hay, stubble, or chaff, my divine work finished, and my earthly connections to those You gave me intact.
I would not be cast into the outer darkness, weeping and gnashing my teeth.
Like the holy Psalmist in whom the Father was pleased, let me be tested and tried to see if there is any wicked way in me, and give me a clean heart and an upright spirit. Help me to remember, and know, that in You my salvation is assured, my return to You certain. Strengthen my love for You and establish it unshakable in the bleakest of circumstances and the most wicked of persecutions.
And use my trials, O Lord, to help me to strengthen my brothers and sisters, that they may return to You also.
In Your Holy Name, and by the Power of the Spirit of the Living God, I ask it.