31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,[d] that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)
Through the Bible: Luke 22, John 13
Footnotes matter. In the ESV, there is a tiny little letter “d” right after the first “you” in verse 31. And that tiny little “d” changed the way I saw this verse today.
The footnote says, “The Greek word for you (twice in this verse) is plural; in verse 32, all four instances are singular.” So, if Jesus spoke Southern, verse 31 would read, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have y’all, that he might sift y’all like wheat.”
See, it wasn’t just Peter that Satan wanted to sift. He wanted all the disciples. In Jesus’ day, wheat was sifted through a sieve or strainer. It was shaken violently, and in the process all the dirt and impurities that clung to the wheat even through the threshing process would be separated, and what would be left was the good, usable grain.
I can imagine Jesus pulling aside Peter, the leader of the disciples, saying, “Listen, Simon. Things are about to get crazy for you guys. You don’t know this, but Satan is demanding permission to sift all of you like wheat. He wants to mess with the disciples the way he messed with Job in the Old Testament. And just like Job, Satan can’t mess with you beyond what the Father allows (see Job 1-2).
“But Simon, my Father is going to allow it. Those impurities and fears and anxieties—those things that have been holding all of you back and keeping you from being really useful to Me—all that has to be shaken off. And sometimes, the only way for it to be shaken off is for you to be shaken up. And that starts tonight. All of you are going to be sifted. And Simon, you’re not exempt. You are part of ‘y’all.’”
Now go back to the footnote. Jesus starts with the plural in verse 31, but He narrows it to the singular in verse 32. Again, imagine the conversation:
“Simon, all you guys are going to be sifted. You will all fall away tonight. And that includes you. You, Simon, are going to face your biggest faith crisis of your young life. And in the short term, you’re going to fail the test.
“But Simon, I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
But wait. His faith did fail, right? Even after Jesus prayed for him. And Jesus knew it would, because in verse 34 He tells Peter that before the night is over, Peter will deny Him three times.
So when Jesus says, “ I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail,” He is playing the long game. Jesus is looking ahead, not just at the next twenty-four hours, but to the rest of Peter’s life. He says to Peter, “when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Here’s what the Lord is showing me today: As a pastor, I am never more effective than when I am most vulnerable. I am able to strengthen others not in spite of my weaknesses, but because of them.
And beloved, you are part of the y’all. Jesus sees past the sifting that you are going through. You might think that you’ve failed. And you might be right. But Jesus sees past the sifting to the saint on the other side. And He sees the day you will strengthen your brothers and sisters. Your test will be a testimony. Your story will be redeemed for His glory.
Dear God, how I have fallen. Only you know how many times I have fallen back into sinful habits. Only you know how many mornings I have said “never again,” only to repeat the same sin. I am very much a part of the “y’all” the devil has asked to sift like wheat. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been shaken so hard that the good grain was shaken right out of the sieve, and all that was left was the dirt and the ugliness.
But, Oh Lord Jesus, you have prayed for me through those times. You saw the betrayals and denials coming, but you saw me on the other side. You saw that I would turn. And you saw that I could use my failures and inadequacies, my sins and my shortcomings, to strengthen my brothers and sisters.
Blessed Savior, you saw through the sifting to what I would be on the other side, and You never stopped loving me.