The Doctrines of Grace: When You Have Turned Again

In the midst of the final week of our Lord’s earthly ministry in his estate of humiliation, Jesus has an interesting exchange with Peter about his forthcoming denial

“Peter is among the elect and we see acted out before us the manifestation of that fact in Jesus’ conversation with Peter. Peter was a sinner just like Judas. Judas was no better or worse than Peter. Yet Peter repented of his sin and was restored and he was given an unusual preview of that in this exchange with Jesus.”

 

In the midst of the final week of our Lord’s earthly ministry in his estate of humiliation, Jesus has an interesting exchange with Peter about his forthcoming denial. Luke 22:31-34 recounts some of the details of this conversation and they are very interesting indeed. We usually focus our attention on the end of the discussion between Jesus and Peter where Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him three times before the rooster crows. I am sure this was news Peter would have preferred not learning about. My concern, however, is with the opening words of the conversation in which Jesus says something striking about Peter over and above the sad fact of Peter’s coming denial.

In a Job-like scenario, Satan has apparently approached God and asked that he be given the privilege of putting Peter through his paces. Specifically, Satan asked to sift Peter like wheat. Satan no doubt thought he could trip Peter up. He thought he could cause Peter not only to stumble, but to fall to the ground, never to rise anymore. Peter made a pretty big target. He was always putting his foot in his mouth. Peter was always bragging about how he would follow Jesus to his death. I don’t doubt Peter sincerely meant what he said. But he got too big for his britches.

Here’s the thing, though. Jesus tells Peter that he has prayed for him. We know that Jesus regularly prayed about and for his disciples. Before Jesus selected the twelve who would comprise his disciple band he spent a whole night wrestling in prayer (Luke 6:12). Jesus prayed for his current disciples and for those who would become followers of Jesus on account of their ministry in his high priestly prayer (John 17:6ff). So when Jesus tells Peter that he has prayed for him we should take that to signify more than that it is a manifestation of his personal piety. Jesus has prayed for Peter specifically about Satan’s request. Jesus has prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail him. It certainly looks like that is just what happened. Peter denied knowing his master three times. And he did this under less than physical duress.

Jesus does not end on a “hope so” note. Jesus tells Peter that when he has turned he should strengthen his brothers. Notice the use of the word “when.” Jesus does not say “if” but “when.” Jesus tells Peter, in the midst of telling him he is going to experience a massive sinful failure. But Jesus has prayed for Peter. And when Peter recovers he is to strengthen and comfort his fellow disciples. Jesus has prayed that Peter would survive the wheat-sifting and come out the other side. There is no doubt in Jesus’ words nor is his tone of voice. Jesus has prayed for Peter and while he knows Peter will be tested and tried and will crash and burn. Peter will survive the crash to be of continual service to him and his fellow disciples.

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