Summary: Following Christ as a leader involves answering one essential question. This question is answered by how we respond to the Enemy's sifting, and how we respond to Christ's impassioned enquiries.
For The Love of Pete
Of the many interactions that The Christ had with people, He had two particularly extremely curious conversations with his chief apostle, Peter. Curious may not be the right word. Bewildering may be more apt. One of them required Peter to act, the other required Peter to answer. My suspicion is that these two poignant conversations give us insight into the two greatest struggles anyone desiring a deeper spiritual life will have to face.
These are the Twelve:
¶ Simon (Jesus later named him Peter, meaning “Rock”),
Mark 3:16, The MESSAGE
Having changed his name from “A reed that bends in the slightest breeze” to “Strong and solid as a rock”, Jesus reverts to Peter’s birth-name in addressing him now. “Simon, Simon” He says. It seems that Jesus was reminding Peter of who he was - one easily influenced by others. The world loves to sway people away from following God. Sometimes Satan orchestrates this. A young man gives his life to Christ and becomes a real threat to the powers of Darkness. Satan begins scheming.
¶ “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
Most of us, left to our own devices, are reeds that bend in the slightest breeze. We want to be “in”. We want others to accept us. We want the approval and affirmation of the crowd. This will cause a child of God to succumb to the devilish temptations that the world offers if they lose their vision of their Saviour. But I have slightly rushed ahead to the second curious conversation that Jesus had with Peter.
“Idou” is the Greek word that Jesus uses to begin His address to Simon. Pay attention to what I am about to tell you is the sense of the Greek word idou. It carries a sense of gravitas (stern importance). Imagine Jesus taking you aside from the crowd, putting His hand on your shoulder and looking you square in the eyes and saying, “My little lamb, you are so easily swayed by the world. Pay attention to what I am about to tell you!” Can you hear the tone in Christ’s voice? Can you feel the weight of this moment? Idou. Behold. Listen very carefully.
Following Christ is no trivial, frivolous exercise. While our salvation is won for us at the Cross our journey with Christ does not stop at the Cross. Our journey has twists and turns, mountains and valleys, crowds and isolation, plenty and want, moments of urgency and moments of rest. But idou, we have an Enemy lurking!
“Simon, Simon, behold: Satan has demanded to have you!” In a scene reminiscent of the Book of Job where the God of Glory had Satan make a similar demand for the soul of Job, the Son of God had Satan demand the soul of Peter. Like Father like Son, Jesus was stunningly confident that Peter would remain loyal to Him despite Satan’s best efforts to lure him away. At this point in the Gospel account of this sombre episode I expect the next statement from Christ to be something like, “But I have rejected his request! But it stuns me that it isn’t. Jesus granted Satan’s request!
Many a young man has been introduced to Jesus in their youth then had Satan lure them away before they could idou the Christ. The world has its pleasures, delights, and attractions.
“Stolen water is sweet,
and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit,
But these pleasures are fleeting, these delights are dangerous, and attractions are often traps. “Simon, Simon, behold: Satan has demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat!” Sifting wheat involves shaking, wind, and fire. The sift allow the wheat to pass through and the chaff, the husks, and the debris to be removed. The weightier wheat drops down while the lighter chaff is blown into the fire.
His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
What does it take for Satan to lure a child of God away from their Redeemer? A relationship? A drink? A pill? A bed? Chocolate? A football game?
After announcing to Peter that he was to be sifted by Satan - with Christ’s permission - Jesus assures Peter that his impending failure will not be his final doom. “But I have prayed for you” Jesus tells him. It seems that even the Son of God thinks prayer does something eternally significant and immediately helpful. Jesus prayed for Peter. For facing Satanic sifting, Jesus prayed for Peter. Satan will attack, but Jesus is praying. But nearly always changing everything. Given the choice between having Jesus guarding us against Satanic attacks and having Jesus pray for us while we go through them, how many of us would choose the prayer option?