"Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat"(Luke 22:31)
Only occasionally do we have glimpses into the interaction between God and the devil. Though certainly much has gone on behind the scenes it the struggle between right and wrong, God has seen fit to reveal only a small portion to us. Yet what we do know leaves us interested and often confused. Here Jesus tells Peter that the devil has requested him specifically, with an undoubtedly evil purpose at heart. While much remains hidden, what can we learn from these verses? Why did Satan ask for Peter?
Satan asked for Peter because he had to ask. Jesus tells Peter that Satan "has asked for you"(Luke 22:31), a word meaning "to demand or desire"(Strong). In short, Satan asked because he could not simply take Peter! Long ago when Satan and God discussed Job, God allowed Satan to afflict Job: "And the Lord said to Satan, 'Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person'"(Job 1:12). Notice Jehovah's statement permitting Satan to do this work. God has all authority, and any practice Satan does must be allowed by God. So God promises us "No temptation has overtaken you, except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able"(1 Cor 10:13). Remember, God does not tempt us (James 1:13), but allows the devil to tempt us. Here He promises not to allow the devil to tempt us in a way that is beyond our ability. Further, when Jesus cast out demons, He explained the source of this power: "No one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house"(Mark 3:27). Because Jesus had power over Satan, He could order Satan's servants around and cast them out of people. The fact that Jesus has "all authority in heaven and on earth"(Matt 28:18, John 17:2) means that all requests and all business of all kinds ends up on His desk-including Satan's request for Peter. In short, Satan asked for Peter because God is in control, and he had to ask permission!
Satan asked for Peter because he wanted to attack and challenge him. Jesus explains Satan's desire: "Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat"(Luke 22:31). Grain was shaken or agitated in a sieve to remove the impurities, and Satan's goal was to shake Peter up and see if there was any true faith in him. God warns us that Satan has "wiles"(Eph 6:11) and "devices"(2 Cor 2:11) for each one of us, and certainly the devil had a good battle plan for Peter. In fact, Satan's plan for Peter was highly successful, causing Peter to deny Jesus three times that night. Yet Jesus encouraged Peter: "But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren"(Luke 22:32). Jesus encouraged Peter with the knowledge that he would return to Jesus, and he did. We must understand that even if we are not certain that Satan asks for us specifically, he wants to challenge and attack all of us-to sift each of us as wheat. It is interesting that later in life Peter used the same image of testing to describe all trials: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ"(1 Pet 1:6-7). Just as Peter was sifted as wheat, so we are tested by the trials of life-especially persecution-to determine whether our faith is genuine. Further, Peter warns us to "be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour"(1 Pet 5:8). Peter had experienced the devil's attacks, and warns us to be ready. Will we listen?
Satan asked for Peter because he was the leader. Surely Satan thought that if he could eliminate Peter, he could cut the head off the snake of Christianity. Though Peter was not officially the leader of the apostles-and certainly was not anything like a modern pope-yet he still had an important position among the apostles and the early church. Though the devil targets all of us, he will especially go after leaders. Paul warns the Ephesian elders, "For I know this, that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves"(Acts 20:29-30). How much more damage the devil could do if he could draw apostles-or elders, or deacons, or preachers-away from Jesus Christ? Let us learn well: Satan will target the Peters in the Lord's body just as well as he will target the Judases.
Why did Satan ask for Peter? Ultimately, because he wants all men to come to him rather than be saved by Jesus. We may not know everything about God and Satan's interactions, but we do know who we must follow. When your life is shaken and temptation comes to you, what side will you end up on? Will you be sober and watch out for your adversary? Satan is targeting you. How will your battle end? ___Jacob Hudgins