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Lent - Day 19

Day 19  Thursday


That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1: 3).


Luke 22: 31-34
“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.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Mark 14: 27-31
And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.


On the last night, Jesus knew his disciples would fall away. Peter’s great heart could not imagine running away. Prison. A fight. Death. He felt like he would face it all.
It seemed the deep faith in Peter particularly grated on the evil one. In a mysterious passage, Jesus speaks of Satan “demanding” to sift Peter. This reminds us of the Book of Job when Satan got permission from God to test Job with affliction (Job 2: 1-8). Somehow, Jesus in his prayers to his Father had learned of this specific desire from the opposition behind all earthly opposition. 
I find it difficult, even treacherous, to discern which part of our suffering comes from the way a fallen world is, the actions of sinful people against us, the results of our own choices, or particular activity of Satan. All these seem to combine. And we don’t need to figure out which is which in order to see the effect of “sifting.” The old way of separating the edible grains of wheat from the inedible sheaf, or chaff, was a violent process. It involved beating the wheat stalk against a stone or hard earth threshing floor until the kernels were loosened. We’ve all experienced such painful sifting. And how later what remains, or grows, is a greater good than we could have expected.
In this instance, Jesus interposed his prayers against Satan’s desire to sift Peter.  Storms rage. Winds howl. Evil yammers and yells. But Jesus quietly pits his words, “But I have prayed for you” against all the shredding forces. Paul reminds us that even now Jesus intercedes for us (Rom. 8: 34). These prayers did not prevent Peter from being tempted, or even from failing. Nor do Jesus’ prayers prevent our being tempted or making choices. But the prayers of Jesus did assure that Peter would recover and grow stronger. And they assure us that good grain will rise as the chaff falls away during sifting. God still works what is meant for evil into good, over time, for those who love him (Rom. 8: 28). 


I swore I would be true, and I meant it.
I would never . . .
You can count on me . . .
I’m not like all the others . . .
I am prepared to suffer for you . . .
But again you crushed me
With your predictions.
And again you surprised me 
With assurances and a mission.
You have prayed for me.
With all that is upon you,
All your cares, all the needs,
You have prayed for me.
For me!
You put your faith in the gap for me.
You take the brunt.
You bear the load.
You keep watch.
You stand for me as you kneel before your Father.
My faith will not fail, you have prayed it.
But there will be something from which I must turn again.
Some place I will go from which I must come back.
You will crush me, and surprise me
You will soothe me and you will send me.
You have prayed for me. 
I can only rest in those prayers. 
These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20: 31).


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