Jesus warns his disciples about the difficulty they are going to face during his arrest and crucifixion. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 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). The process of sifting wheat involves shaking (and sometimes throwing) the wheat around to separate the good wheat from the useless chaff. Just as he did with Job, Satan has asked for permission to bring hardship into the disciples’ lives to test their commitment to God.
Modern disciples experience this too. We endure discouraging situations that test our faith. Jesus’ words can help us.
You can get back up. Jesus implies that the disciples will fail—he will shortly tell Peter that he will deny him—yet there is still hope. “When you have turned again, strengthen your brothers”(Luke 22:32). “Turn again” is a fascinating word that is used repeatedly in Scripture to describe a physical change in direction. Here it is a metaphor for turning back to Jesus after disappointment. Later Peter even uses this word to invite his fellow Jews to repent and follow Jesus (Acts 3:19). Jesus understands that we will not be perfect in our service, but he wants us to get back up when we fall down. The tragedy is when we become so overwhelmed by our mistakes that we quit serving Jesus (the path of Judas).
Jesus intervenes for you. Satan has asked for the disciples, yet Jesus tells them, “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail”(Luke 22:32). Jesus doesn’t pray for them to avoid hardship. He prays that they will have faith to endure it and to recover from it. I cannot say definitively that Jesus prays for each one of us when we go through difficulty, but I can say that Jesus knows what we endure and that he does not leave us to face such troubles (and their architect, Satan) alone (Heb 13:5-6).
Your brothers can help you. Jesus gives this work specifically to Peter: “And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers”(Luke 22:32). Jesus anticipates that Peter will come out of this experience with his faith intact. He wants Peter to keep an eye out for his brothers and encourage them. Sometimes what we need most is not answers to all of our questions, but someone to walk the difficult path alongside us. Jesus wants his disciples to be there for each other. This desire has not changed.
Perhaps most amazing is that Jesus then gives to Peter—the one who has just denied him—the work of encouraging others not to deny him! When we have been sifted like wheat, we are often better equipped to help others through similar trials.
It is refreshing that Jesus does not give up on his disciples just because they fail him in moments of trial. There is still hope!