Week 29 Chapter 28B?
The Test of a True Friend
Luke 22:31-32; John 18:15-18, 19:25-27
In any relationship, limits are tested. The same happened with Jesus, Peter and John. During Jesus’ last days in ministry here, He told the Twelve that they should stay alert and pray as Satan had requested to “sift them as wheat” (Luke 22:32). Jesus admonished them for sleeping and warned them to be in constant prayer. Jesus also acknowledged that He was praying for their spiritual welfare, and He lovingly instructed Peter to strengthen others after he “turned again”. Those words would smart when Peter, just as Jesus predicted, would deny Christ three times before the cock crowed.
This testing was difficult to the disciples. It was not like the first testing when many of Jesus’ followers left after hearing His hard sayings. This one says Bruce, was like a soldier first going to war and realizing the stark realities of true battle. Bruce also says that the soldiers are naturally afraid, but that the pressure of the battle forms them into leaders, as pressed coal creates diamonds.
It was this last trial or sifting that Satan intended for bad, but God used for good (Romans 8:28). This testing helped the disciples’ faith in more ways than what they had previously learned. This one gave them the strength to move from followers to Apostles—meaning “the sent ones.” By leaving, Jesus took the training wheels off and left them to depend on what they could not see (Hebrews 11).
While the disciples had reason to fear Jesus’ removal from them, Jesus saw the trial as good for three reasons. First, He knew that the testing would come. Second, He knew they would survive it because Satan can only do what God allows him to do. Third, Jesus knew that his trial would result in the spiritual maturity that the Apostles would need to carry out His work on Earth.
Notice, though, that Jesus did not say that their failures would be Satan’s fault. Many Christians have the mistaken idea that Satan can “take over” believers. This is simply not true. Satan can only do what God allows, and God—who dwells in believers– cannot be the cause of temptation (James 1:12-26). Additionally, Satan cannot be the cause of human sin; if so, God could not hold His people accountable. God says that temptations will come, but that He will provide a way out in order to endure it (1Cor. 10:13). Therefore, we cannot blame Satan for our choice to follow his influence instead of God’s.
As part of Jesus’ inner circle, Peter and John were also fast friends. Their bravado and motivation to stick to the end compelled them to stay with Jesus throughout His ordeal. John, having connections to the inner court had less pressure to flee, and was able to stay until the very end. Peter, on the other hand, caved to the pressure of preserving his own life, and before the cock crowed, he had denied Jesus three times just as predicted. We are uninformed of what bitter agony Peter suffered through in the next two days before the resurrection.
The character of these two disciples is what separated them. John, being socially adept, never burnt bridges, while Peter in his brash and crude bravado along side his careless actions, made many enemies
Dr. Bruce ends this chapter by reminding us that while God’s grace is universal to all, it is unique in its application to each individual’s character.
So what are your weaknesses? How would Satan be able to sift you? What can you and Jesus pray for to keep you maturing? As we head toward Passion Week, make that a priority. How dependent on God’s strength are you? Alternatively, do you try to go it alone?
See Ya Next Time