31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.
32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
Luke 22:31-34 (NIV)
Jesus correctly predicted that Peter’s faith would falter; He even knew that Peter would deny that he had followed Him, and that he would do so three times (vs. 34). That is very specific. I mean, Jesus knew the Scriptures well, so He must have been aware that his best friends would deny and betray Him (e.g. Ps 41:9). But to predict correctly that Peter would do this three times – and also bring a rooster in, which would serve as a reminder – can never be regarded as a lucky guess. In fact, I think it again stresses the point that Jesus knows each of us personally, present, past and future. This whole situation has much in common with the encounter Jesus had with the Samaritan woman when he correctly described her past. (John Chapter 4). It almost looks as though He had wanted to make sure that these incidents would not be forgotten – and indeed we do have an accurate record of everything that did happen. The fact that Peter denied Him on precisely three separate occasions is related to us in all four Gospels.
Do not think that we are any better than Peter was. In each of our lives a time will come when Satan will come to question our faith and sow doubts (vs. 31). The unexpected death of a relative or friend can easily topple a man’s faith. A tragic traffic accident or illness causing the loss of someone close to you can put us completely off balance. At such a time it appears very much as if fate is governing our lives. That makes it difficult to confess that there is a God who loves us. That was how it looked to Peter when Jesus was imprisoned, charged, condemned and handed over to be crucified. He (Peter) thought that everything was lost. There was no hope left. Jesus was going to die just like He had said He would. And that would be the end. He had seen the miracles Jesus had done. He had lived for three years with Him. He had learned that Jesus is God (Matt 16:16-17). And yet, at that particular moment he had lost all faith in Him.
What is faith? Is it a leap in the dark? A mystical experience? Is it an encounter of the third or fourth kind with ‘someone’? I do not think so. In the light of the evidence that we have that Jesus was indeed who He claimed He was, I would say it is rather: to place your trust in Jesus, no matter what happens. It is being sure of what we hope and (being) certain of what we do not see. God gave man only one key with which to open the gates of heaven. And that is Faith!
As strange as it may seem, the opposite of believing is not unbelieving. In fact, the opposite of faith is fear. If you happen to drive into a big city that you are not familiar with and you don’t have a map, you might start getting worried that you are going to get lost. Do not be surprised if you do get lost. Fear is faith in the negative. Once you place trust in the idea that things will not work out – it actually happens! But if you decide to let go of fear, something strange happens: it seems that it is automatically replaced with faith.
Jesus acknowledges the existence of the prince of darkness: Satan. (vs. 31). Apparently this creature does have some right to accuse us and put fear in us. He will not stop asking questions and reminding us of our past. The worst thing that can happen to us is when he can sow doubt so that we loose faith (vs. 32a). Because then things may seem pretty desperate and hopeless. But even if we do stumble and fall because it had become too dark around us: Jesus is praying for us that we will stand up again and carry on loving. (Vs. 32b)
I know there are people who think that ‘Satan’ or the devil is not real or does not exist. I would recommend that they do a careful study of the occult origins of the Third Reich. They will find that the eugenic laws and racist ideas that Hitler had put in place to obtain racial purity can be linked directly to occult practitioners and spiritualists who had contact with the Nordic god Wotan. The leaders and prophets of these groups proclaimed that the people of Aryan race were loosing their psychic abilities and other superior physical qualities because they had mixed with the “inferior” races. Up until almost the end of the 2nd world war very few people – especially in Germany itself – realized that the whole issue of racial purity was just a cover up for the real motive (of Satan), namely the murdering of the people of God. Jesus calls Satan the murderer from the beginning. (John 8:44).
During His ministry Jesus explained several times that He had come to crush Satan’s power. But like He experienced during His own life: the fight against the darkness here on earth is still on (Luke 22:53). An Essene monk once wrote: “Until now the spirits of truth and falsehood struggle in the hearts of men and they walk in both wisdom and folly; for God has established these two spirits in equal measure, until the Renewal, when there shall be no more lies and all the works of falsehood shall be put to shame.” (From: Dead Sea scrolls).
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one,” writes Paul to the Ephesians. When we take up this shield we are letting go of fear; it protects us, nothing can harm us. When we let go of fear we are spiritually healing and this does have an effect in the physical world, as many people can testify. If you want to have a look what faith can do, you should read the 11th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Hebrews. It is like a small hall of ‘faith’ of the biblical figures.
When Jesus and the disciples were caught up in a storm on a ship, Jesus simply asked: “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25, Mark 4:40). It looks as if He had wanted to say: “Do not be intimidated by the circumstances around you. Do not fear. Even if the worst thing were to happen to you: I am still here with you, I am with you in the same boat.”