And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not:and when thou art converted [to turn to: bring back], strengthen thy brethren. And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.
And Jesus saith unto them,-- All ye shall be offended because of me this night:for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered. But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee. But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.
The word offended in the KJV is translated from the Greek word: skandalizo, which is where we get our word scandal.
σκανδαλιζω skandalizo; from 4625; to entrap, i. e. trip up (figuratively, stumble (transitively) or entice to sin,...
There is a lot going on behind the scenes at this point, but what I want to focus upon is Peter's response to the words of the Lord.
Jesus is foretelling them what's going to happen after He dies. The result of His death is going to cause them to stumble in their faith; they will commit the sin of unbelief.
What the disciples are facing at this moment in time is common to all Christians. There are times within this journey that we are filled with uncertainty, even confusion, and we shrink back; furthermore, there are many times that we, like Peter, think more highly of ourselves than we should. In other words, we have more confidence in ourselves than we should.
I have always loved this passage of scripture:
... And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not:and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren...
There is so much in this one verse because the truth is that the enemy of our soul wants to sift us all like wheat. I don't mean to over- spiritualize the statement Jesus made, but the sifting of wheat certainly has the idea of separation, separating husk from grain, separating large grain from fine flour, and separating unwanted elements from the flour itself. From a spiritual perspective, the idea is undoubtedly that the enemy wants to sift or separate Peter, not only from God’s presence, but also from God's purpose.
Essentially, Satan desires permission from God to tempt Peter, his hope (Satan) being that he will destroy Peter's faith, and ultimately, destroy the plan God has for Peter's life.
Every Christian should take note of what is taking place in the spiritual realm at this point. This is a similar occurrence to what happened to Job. The enemy of our soul and accuser of our walk with God asks permission to prove us wrong, and there are times when God allows him certain latitude.
Now, we must also understand that God has a plan through these tests and ultimately His desire is not to destroy us; rather, His desire is that through the test, He will prove and perfect our faith, essentially bringing us to the place where we understand the import of God's kingdom business.
Satan, on the other hand, also has a desire, like the sift separates wheat; he wants to separate us from our relationship and purpose in God. Jesus assures Peter that He is interceding so that Peter's faith wouldn't fail. He didn't say that Peter in no way would fail, or that Peter would never make a mistake. Instead, Jesus' prayer is that Peter's belief in the declaration that he previously made, which was given to him by the Father in heaven:
Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
It is this faith that Jesus prays would not fail.
As we will see moving forward, the mixture of our failing attempts in our own strength compounded with the filling of the Holy Spirit, produces a child of God that is prepared to perform for God through His (God's) power, having been convinced that his (self's) own power won't work.
...But he [Peter] spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all (Mark 14).
Already, the disciples are following Peter's lead. Sadly, when he fails God, through denying Jesus (Luke 22:54-61; Matthew 26:69-75) and in his remorse, moves further away, they will also follow.
Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
Here, we resume the story after Peter denied Jesus three times and the crucifixion has taken place. Even though Jesus has been resurrected and revealed Himself to the disciples sporadically for 40 days before His ascension to the Father, which obviously would have given them time to contemplate all these things that were happening.
It's within the midst of one of these times, a time where Peter has seen and is made aware that God's purposes are moving forward as planned in spite of Peter's failure, that Peter takes a wrong turn. No one really knows what's going on within the heart of a man or woman, the past hurts, insecurities, or even secret failures that plague a person's mind. But this is the very time when Satan is attempting his sifting, the liar is attempting to remove Peter but put yourself in the blank, because the liar wants to sift you also you can be assured; however, remember the words of the Savior, "When you are converted, strengthen the brethren..."
In other words, the failure and rescue from the trial is going to produce in us the epignosis (experiential) knowledge of Jesus needed to convince us about kingdom business.
The Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest explains that the underlying language in this John passage is describing something more than just an innocent fishing trip on Peter's part. Instead, the idea being communicated is that he is going back to his former lifestyle as a fisherman and turning his back on the call; furthermore, many of the other disciples are falling prey to his influence.
We don't have time to dissect Jesus' words of correction and instruction, which put Peter back on course, and while I would never want to put a heavy burden on any individual, I certainly want to be a part of a process that produces sober minded disciples when I say, "People are watching your walk!"
People both in the world and the church are watching your walk, at least if you've stepped out enough and told anybody you were a Christian. If you have done that, they're watching and how you handle your business matters.
Now, that isn't said to place heavy burdens on anyone. The truth is that we can't walk in victory on our own anyway, and I can assure you that there will be failures in the journey of Christianity, and anyone who says they haven't failed the Lord in some way is probably so full of a lying spirit of religion they couldn't see their failure even if they wanted to.
Nevertheless, the main reason I spent all this time talking about Peter's failure is because I wanted to provide a contrast for the power of Pentecost.
Before Jesus ascended to the Father, He told His disciples: And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you:but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49).
When we contemplate the struggles that the disciples, more specifically Peter, were having, we can come to the conclusion that there is no way they would be able to accomplish God's mission: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:was the power of God to help them (Matthew 28:19).
Once Jesus was ascended and the disciples obeyed His instructions to tarry in Jerusalem so they could receive the promised power, the Holy Spirit showed up and some amazing things took place.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,-- Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?-- Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh:and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death:because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens:but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized:and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
So in the end of this story, the same man, who full of pride, said he wouldn't fail God did, and in his failure, responding through despondency, turned his back on God's plan for his life, leading most of the disciples to do the same; ultimately, heeds the words of the Savior, is filled with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, preaches the first Holy Ghost message, and 3,000 get saved.
The purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is to give us the power to be witnesses for the kingdom of God, to be witnesses for the gospel of Jesus Christ:
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you:and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.