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)
On the evening of our Lord’s trial and crucifixion, the apostle Peter was in a severe state of depression. Hours earlier, Peter had boldly asserted that he would never deny his Master. Yet later, during Christ’s trial, Peter sat crouching in fear, warming himself by a fire. A servant of the High Priest’s office approached Peter and he was in fact the third person that night asking Peter if he knew Jesus. Like twice before, he denied his Lord. Upon this denial – the third one – a rooster crowed, fulfilling Jesus’ word to Peter that he would deny Him three times before dawn. Peter ran out weeping bitterly.
For many years Peter had stood by Jesus. He had left his fishing nets to follow his Lord wholeheartedly. He had stood up for Christ many times in many places before many people. Even hours earlier, in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter boldly was ready to fight for Him. Yet, when Jesus was in his most desperate hour of need, Peter abandoned Him.
The emotional scars that this had left on Peter’s life must have been devastating. Yet, within 40 days Peter stood in the Jerusalem temple, proclaiming Jesus before three thousand people. This speech took place only one hundred yards from where he had flatly denied he knew Christ. What happened?
I don’t think that we are any better than Peter was. In each of our lives a time will come when Satan comes 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 point in time 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. And, as strange as it may seem, the opposite of believing is not unbelieving. In fact, the opposite of faith is fear. Fear is faith in the negative. Once you place trust in the idea that things will not work out – it 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 lose 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 eventually 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 dogma that Hitler had put in place to obtain racial purity can be linked directly to occult practitioners and spiritualists who had contact with the old pagan Nordic gods. The leaders and prophets of these groups proclaimed that the people of Aryan race were losing 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, sickness, and lack of knowledge here on earth is still on (Luke 22:53).
You will probably find the most convincing proof of Jesus’ resurrection when you observe the changed life of his disciples and friends after His resurrection and ascension. Look how Peter boldly preaches the Gospel at Pentecost (see Acts Chapter 2). When commanded by the rulers not to speak of Jesus, he shows a complete turnabout from that previous behavior when he says: “We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead – whom you had killed by hanging Him on a tree.” (Acts 5:29-30). The fear is gone! Threats to his life and possible imprisonment can no longer stop him to bear witness of the Truth. Truly, this change of behavior came about after Peter had seen the risen Christ….. Jesus’ love and forgiveness freed Peter from the emotional scars that depressed him. This is what happens when the living Christ becomes a reality in your live. Nothing will ever be the same. Everything changes. Nobody can hurt you. Nothing can stop you. There is hope! It burns in your heart, and it gives you a totally different perspective on life as a whole. Never give up hope. Hope is not foolish. Hope is the dream of the waking man. The hope that Jesus brings changes everything.
Many times we may deny Jesus, unintentionally or willfully, choosing not to include Him in our lives. But we are assured with confidence that Jesus Christ has given us His kingdom. There is no sin too great, too severe, or too scary to separate us from the love of God. Let Jesus’ love turn your broken heart into wholeness, your denials into declarations of His love and forgiveness for all mankind. Then like Peter, go and proclaim boldly what our Lord has done!
Selection from: Jesus is God – God is Jesus
by Henry Pool