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It is Wednesday evening of Passion Week and Jesus has just finished celebrating the Passover feast with His disciples a day earlier than the official celebration observed by the religious leaders.  This is no different from what happens on occasion even today when Muslims in different areas celebrate Ramadan on different days depending on what day the sighting of the new moon is made by observers from different locations.  During the dinner Jesus announced that it would be one of them sharing His communion at the meal who would betray Him.  He also imparted a much greater meaning to the bread and cups of wine that were shared as part of the Passover remembrance by instituting the Lord’s Supper, which would now become a remembrance of His own sacrifice as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, as well as His promise to come again in glory to establish the fullness of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven where the rite would find its final fulfillment.

After singing as a hymn the remaining Hallel psalms of the feast that concluded with the very prophetic words at the end of Psalm 118, He went out with His disciples to the Mount of Olives.  On the way He said they would all fall away from Him that very night as sheep that are scattered when their shepherd is struck down, just as it was written in the Scriptures (Zec 13:7).  And although they couldn’t perceive it, because it still didn’t make any sense to them that He was about to die, He also told them that when He was raised He would go before them into Galilee where they would be returning after the feast.  It was likely there on a mountain that He appeared to over five hundred at one time as proof to the many other followers of Christ that the resurrection appearances reported by Jesus’ closest disciples were true.  What else does Luke record was a part of Jesus’ words about the disciples falling away?  See Luk 22:31-32, and notice that you in Luk 22:31 is plural, referring to all the disciples, and you in Luk 22:32 is singular, referring to Simon Peter.  What event from the Old Testament does Jesus’ words here recall?  See Job 1:6-12.  What do Jesus’ words remind us about our enemy the devil who “doth seek to work us woe”?  Cf. Zec 3:1, 1Pe 5:8, Rev 12:10.  Should we suppose that Satan is any less demanding of God to sift Christ’s disciples today, including us, than he was in the first century?

What is meant by Satan’s desire to sift the disciples like wheat?  Will the wheat of God’s harvest in any generation not need to be sifted in order to separate them from the chaff?  What does Job’s example and Jesus’ words about Satan obtaining permission to sift them like wheat remind us about how God allows trials and temptations to test our faith and our hearts?  Although our inclination is to shrink away from such testing, what does Scripture say should be our response to such trials, and why?  See Jam 1:2-4,12, 5:11, 1Pe 1:6-7; cf. Rom 8:17-18 and consider how such trials help us to separate ourselves from the seen and temporal chaff of this world unto the unseen and eternal fruit of God’s kingdom.  What promise does God make to those pure and wholesome grains of His field who are to be gathered into His barn in order to encourage them in the midst of such trials when they are shaken as if in a sieve?  See Amo 9:9, Heb 12:26-28.  Upon what basis are we confidently assured that not a single grain with be lost?  See Luk 22:32, Heb 7:25; cf. 1Co 10:13.  In the midst of our trials we will often ask others to pray for us, and especially those whom we might know or consider to be especially close to God, because we understand that their prayers are particularly powerful and apt to be heard; see Jam 5:16 and cf. Gen 20:7,17, Exo 9:28-29,33, 1Sa 12:19, Job 42:8, Psa 34:15, Jer 42:2, Act 9:38.  But do we realize that as with Peter and the other disciples, it is Jesus Himself who is praying for us to stand and not fall?  See Mar 5:22-23, Luk 7:2-3, 9:38-40, Joh 4:46-47; cf. Zec 3:2-5, 1Pe 2:9, Rev 1:6, 5:10.  Even though God may not hear the prayers of Moses and Samuel (Jer 15:1) or Noah, Daniel, and Job (Eze 14:20), will He not hear the prayers of His own dear Son?

What is the significance that Jesus singled out and addressed Peter in regard to Satan demanding permission to sift all of them as wheat?  See Mat 16:16-19, 26:33-35.  Although Peter as the leader of the apostles stumbled badly, and no doubt suffered a sore crisis of faith after Jesus’ death, did his faith ultimately fail him?  See Luk 22:32.  How comforting is it to know that Jesus knows all of our weaknesses, as He did Peter’s, and that He knows that our weaknesses will sorely tempt us even to the point of falling away and denying Him, but that He still confidently prays for us that we will “turn again”?  What did Jesus command Peter to do once he had turned again?  Although completely contrary to the world’s way of thinking, in what way did Peter’s falling away and denial of Christ in spite of his bluster to the contrary make him especially fit to strengthen not only the other close disciples of Jesus, but also the multitudes to whom he would open the doors of the kingdom of God with the keys entrusted to him through his example of Christ’s merciful forgiveness?  I.e., although Peter supposed so at the time, as it actually turned out so clearly, did he in fact have anything to boast about that would commend him to God as a leader in the Church who would be able to strengthen his other brothers?  How would that humbling experience have made him forevermore in his influence upon the early church a servant with the same heart for the lost as Jesus? Cf. Heb 5:1-2.

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