In Luke 22:31 Jesus utters these chilling words: “Simon, Simon, Satan seeks to sift you like wheat”. Chilling? Yes because it brings home the reality we face in this world that, although Jesus has overcome Satan on the cross, the battle still rages as the wounded foe seeks to derail the great plan of salvation. The interesting and encouraging thing to note is that Satan, just as he did in Job, has to come to Jesus for permission.
This has come home to me on two levels in the last few days. The bizarre attack from my neighbour has escalated. A completely unreasonable, unprovoked attack, launched for a second time trying to hide behind my daughter Leslie while I have been out playing golf. Having been exposed to bullying at school I recognize that this is exactly what she is trying to do to me. I spent a sleepless night with my mind swinging between feelings of indignation, retaliation etc with wild conversations running through my head. The clear light of day brought me feelings of some calm and a decision not to fight and raise the heat of the conflict, but rather to ignore as one does with a typical bully.
Of course in the forefront of my mind is the knowledge and expectation that I have experienced before, when I have been actively preparing for and preaching or otherwise involved on the Christian frontier, that Satan tries to throw me off balance through various avenues of attack, direct or indirect. The passage from Luke however did prepare me, especially with the thought of, 1. the identity of the real foe and 2. that he would only be allowed to operate as far as Jesus allows.
This morning God seemed to say to me: “Ian I have shown you in so many ways that I am with you – Psalm 23, Romans 8:32 and many others – I have invited you to come to Me with your burdens and promised you My peace – peace in Me – not as the world gives. Now the onus is on you to believe – actively throw your burdens onto me 1 Peter 5:7. Toss them off yourself onto Me – I have given you the task of ministering to the church at Kilberry and will protect you and give you wisdom – you just need to fix your thoughts on things above”.
In addition to this He gave me several scriptures which I will not type out completely but which were totally relevant: 1 Peter 5:10, II Chronicles 20:15, and II Corinthians 10:4.5.
Now to today’s reading; Luke 22:47-62.
The verse 53b gives the backdrop to the events. “But this is your hour – when darkness reigns”. Addressed to the chief priests and the elders, but actually addressed to Satan.
Here we have two types of betrayal: firstly there is Judas. One of the inner circle, where Luke describes who is behind him in 22:3:- “Satan entered Judas” and at the last supper “but the hand of the one who is going to betray me is with mine on the table” (so close, part of the inner fellowship). This was the ultimate betrayal, nevertheless part of God’s plan as we see in Acts 2:23, so therefore allowed by Him as being the way to the ultimate victory on the cross for all mankind.
Secondly there is the betrayal by all the other disciples. Peter’s betrayal is well-known and predicted by Jesus, yet Jesus completely restores him and he even starts his prediction of that betrayal with the words in vs 32 “and when you have turned, strengthen your brothers”. Of course Jesus warned them of the fact that they would be tempted, in the garden, tempted to leave Him, so they needed to be alert and pray. Despite the many sermons preached against Peter he, at least, still hung around, the rest all run away back to Galilee.
This betrayal and desertion must have been one of the most painful things for Jesus to bear, yet Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the perfect high priest: “Because He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted”. Some of the most hurtful times in my life have been when I have been betrayed or deserted by someone close to me and I am sure most of you can relate to that as well. The comforting knowledge is that Jesus knows, experientially what that is like and can therefore comfort us at such times.
For me today as I listen to Jesus: I realize I am involved in this kingdom battle – but the battle is the Lord’s (2 Chron) – My part? I must believe and trust and in His power to be obedient – casting all my burdens on Him and taking every thought captive – How? in His strength and wisdom. And show my dependence by actively continuing to pray for deliverance from temptation.