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SIFTED AS WHEAT; OR, SIMON PETER.
REMARKS ON LUKE XXII. 14-34. How good and precious is it that we have at all times the Lord to look to; for if our eye had always to be fixed upon self, not only should we not advance, but we should be thoroughly discouraged, by the thought of the evil within us.
We confine ourselves to the idea of this evil, and thus deprive ourselves of the strength which can overcome it.
The nature of the flesh, and the blindness of man's heart are worthy of remark. What foolish things come between God and us, to hide from us that which we ought to see; how strangely, too, do the thoughts of the natural heart follow their natural course (even when the Lord is near us), and deprive us of the consciousness of the most striking things, which have a sensible effect around us. We find this presented in the portion before us.
The Lord Jesus was about to accomplish that work which can be compared to no other; He was on the point of bearing the wrath of God for us poor sinners; He was in circumstances which ought to have touched His disciples' hearts. He had just spoken, in the most touching terms, of the passover which He desired to eat once more with them before He suffered; He had told them too that one of them should betray Him. All this ought to have rested upon their minds and have filled their hearts. But they? They were striving among themselves which of them was the greatest !
To us the curtain is withdrawn; and when reading of this fact, we can hardly understand how they could be busied with such things; but we know what was then about to take place.
How many things have power to turn even us, who
have more light than they from the thought which then filled the heart of Jesus! Such is the heart of man in presence of the most serious and solemn things.
The death of Jesus should exercise the same influence on our hearts as on the disciples'; it should be precious to ús.
The Lord is with us when we are gathered two or three together; and yet we well know the thoughts which then pass through our hearts and minds. Here we see the same thing under the circumstances most calculated to touch the heart. Jesus tells His disciples that His blood was to be shed for them, “the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me at the table, but woe unto that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed,” and they enquire among themselves which of them it was that should do this thing. One might suppose that they would think of nothing save the death of their gracious master, but no! “ There was a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.” What a contrast! But, alas ! if we examine our own hearts we shall find these two things generally brought together, namely, real feelings which bear testimony to our love of Jesus, but also, and perhaps within the same half hour, thoughts which are as unworthy as this strife among the disciples. This shews the folly and vanity of man's heart; he is but as the small dust of the balance.
The Lord, ever full of gentleness and meekness, forgets Himself in His care for His disciples, and says to them, “ He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger;
and he that is chief, as he that doth serve." He knows how to teach them, by His own example, what the love of God is; and at the same time He shews them, the grace which is in Him, and all the faithfulness for which they are indebted to Him. It is as though He had said, Ye need not raise yourselves ; my Father will raise you. “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table, in my kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Instead of being irritated by the abominable conduct of His disciples, He shews them, that if there is no grace in men, there is
grace in one man, that is in Himself. This grace is perfect in Jesus; and He places His disciples in it, whatever they may have been toward Him. He has fixed them firmly in the principle of grace, instead of the folly of the flesh which had just shown itself among them, as though He had said, I am all grace towards you, and I trust the kingdom to you.
We are put under grace, and its voice is always heard. It assures us, that, notwithstanding all our weakness, we have continued with Jesus, and that He gives the king. dom as His Father gave it to Him. Nevertheless the soul which is to enjoy these things must be exercised. The flesh must be made manifest to us as men; and therein we see the needs-be of all the trials we pass through; but Jesus enables us to persevere, because we belong to Him. If He says to His disciples, " I appoint unto you a kingdom, ye shall sit on thrones," etc., etc. He takes care to shew them what the flesh is.
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.” He does not say, “ Thou shalt not be tempted; I will hinder Satan from sifting thee.” No, nor does He do it. We see here that God often leaves His children in the presence of their enemy, whom He does not destroy; but, even while thus in the
He watches over His own; as we see Rev. ii. 10, “ The devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
Peter might have said to the Lord, “ Thou canst hinder my being thus sifted," as Martha and Mary thought Jesus could have hindered the death of Lazarus; and, truly, He who can give the crown of life, can shelter us; but He does not do so, that we may be tried. Satan desired to have Job to sift him like wheat, and God permitted him to do so; and this happens to us also. "We often say within ourselves, " Why has he dealt thus with me? Why has He put me in such or such
presence of the
a crucible?" Ah, it is Satan who desired, and God who permitted it.
Things often occur which we cannot understand; such things are intended to shew us what the flesh is.
When God is about to use a Christian in His work, He takes the one who has gone the farthest in the path of trial. Thus here it is said, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you,” the danger is presented to all; but He adds, speaking to Peter, “I have prayed for thee,” for thee in particular, for Jesus distinguishes him from all the rest, because he had taken a more prominent position than the others, and was thus more exposed, though they were all sifted at the death of Jesus.
The Lord then says to Peter, 6. When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." He was not going to spare any of His disciples the sifting; but Peter was to be the most severely tried, and, therefore, the best to strengthen his brethren. Notwithstanding all this, Peter is full of self-confidence. "I am ready to go with thee, both unto prison and to death." But Jesus replies, “ The cock shall not crow this day, before thou hast thrice denied that thou knowest me.”
The flesh acting in Peter had only power to carry him up to the time of trial, and there failed; for Peter denied the Lord Jesus, even in His very presence. He might have seen his Saviour, if his heart had not been turned away from Him. Jesus was looking at him; and yet he denied Him to the maid, saying, " I know Him not." He had been warned; but the Lord would not allow him to be kept by divine power at that moment, because he needed to learn by experience what he was in himself.
If we notice all that Christ did, we shall see how He was watching at this time over Peter; His grace (so to speak) went out to meet him, and took care of Him all through the temptation.
The first thing that Jesus tells him is that He has prayed for him. It is not that Peter's repentance led to Jesus' intercession; but the intercession of Jesus brought about Peter's repentance. “I have prayed for thee," and " Jesus looked on Peter." VOL.V.PT.IV.
As to Judas, he denied the Lord; and, when his conscience was awakened, he killed himself. No sooner was the crime committed than all confidence fled, and he went and killed himself. But here, the effect of the prayer of Jesus was to preserve faith at the bottom of Peter's heart, so that when Jesus looked on him, he was broken down.
The first thing to remark is, that the Lord had prayed for Peter; and the second, that He always remembered His disciple--and as soon as the cock crowed, Jesus looked on him, and Peter wept bitterly.
It is in this way the Lord deals with us, He prays for us, and allows us to go into temptation. If He conducts us when in it, He also bids us to pray that we enter not into temptation : but God permits all this because He sees the end of it.
If Peter had been conscious of his own weakness, he would not have dared to shew himself before the High Priest. This trial was the natural consequence of what he was in the flesh; but it was God's purpose to use him, and even to put him in a prominent position in His work. The cause of his fall was self-confidence; the flesh was actively present.
God did everything well for him; and Peter saw what was the power of Satan's sifting. The other disciples, not having the same fleshly strength, fled at once. They had not so much confidence as Peter; but God left him to struggle against Satan, and Jesus prayed for him, in spite of his fall, that his faith should not fail.
The moment Peter fell, the eye of Jesus was turned upon him. That look did not give peace, but confusion of face; Peter wept; he went out, and it was all over. He had learned what he was. There was his failurethe sin was committed, and could not be undone; it could be pardoned, but never blotted out. Peter could not forget that he had betrayed the Lord; but Jesus made use of this fall to cure him of his presumption.
It is the same with us. We often commit faults which are irreparable, from too much confidence in the