I started a series on my reflections on the Easter story. I asked the question: Where is God when evil people are destroying good people?
In Luke 22 we have Luke’s version of the last supper Jesus had with his disciples. Jesus gives his disciples the cup to drink and breaks the bread for them to eat. Then a dispute arises among the disciples as to which of them is to be considered the greatest. Jesus sets about addressing the dispute and then out of the blue, he turns to Peter and says to him, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Lk 22: 31, 32).
Jesus is telling Peter that Satan had asked for permission to attack Peter, to sift him as wheat. Note, Satan needed permission to touch Peter just as he needed permission to touch Job.
Earlier in the chapter, Luke writes, “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching. The chief priests and the experts in the law were trying to find some way to execute Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Verse 3 reads, “Then Satan entered Judas, the one called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve.”
In the case of Judas, Satan did not seem to need permission but in the case of Peter, he had to ask for permission. Why? Why couldn’t Satan simply enter Peter like he did Judas? The answer lies in the character of the two men. Judas was already predisposed to evil. He was the treasurer of the group and yet he was stealing from the funds given to him to keep.
He was greedy for money and that greed for dishonest gain became an opening for Satan and he did not need to have permission to enter Judas. In a sense, by his character and choices, Judas had already given Satan permission to enter him whenever he liked. Peter on the other hand had shown himself committed and loyal. He had opened himself up to receive revelations from God and that is why Jesus once said to him,
“Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my father who is in heaven.” Then Jesus also said of Peter, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and not even the gates of hell can prevail against it.” Peter was a different kind of person from Judas. And so whilst Satan could enter Judas at will, the same Satan needed permission to sift Peter as wheat.
We need to be careful what we do in secret and what thoughts we entertain in the privacy of our minds. This is because those thoughts and those secret actions may predispose us either for the spirit of God to use us or speak to us or open us up for Satanic possession or domination.
You may be stealing from your employers but you are so clever or the internal controls of the company are so bad that no one knows what you are doing. Well, just know this; your secret actions are putting you in a dangerous place. They are opening you up to become an instrument of Satan whenever he chooses.
You may be cheating in your relationship but you are so clever or your partner is so trusting that you know you will never be found out. Yes, you may never be caught but you are making yourself a Judas for whom Satan does not need permission to mess around with.
This is a call to be careful, not out of fear of being caught and falling into disgrace, but being careful so we do not find ourselves in the power of Satan.
Now it is interesting that both Judas and Peter in a sense betrayed Jesus. Judas did so for money; Peter did so out of fear for his life. Judas acted under Satanic possession; Peter did so from Satanic suggestion. Both men became fully aware of the wrong they had done and both men regretted their actions but Judas still under Satanic possession could not ask for and receive forgiveness.
He considered himself damned and was blinded to the prospect of forgiveness and restoration. Peter felt as devastated with what he had done as Judas had been but because he was not under the possession and power of Satan, he could open himself up for forgiveness and restoration.
It is not what happens to you but what you allow it to do to you. Peter did not allow his betrayal and his slip up to destroy him. He could pick himself up because for him, the slip was a temporary setback and not consistent with who he was. In the case of Judas, it was consistent with who he was and so he could not find his way back.
There are people who are caught in an affair and they repent and turn away from it altogether. There are also people who are caught in an affair and show defiance and refuse to turn away. Guess which of them is a Judas or a Peter.
In 1 Peter 5:8, we read, “Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour.” The devil is on the prowl. When he finds a Judas, he devours him. When he finds a Peter, there is a limit to the harm he can cause because he can never devour a Peter.
In the case of a Judas, Satan does not need permission; in the case of a Peter, he needs permission and that permission comes with guidelines and conditions.
In the case of a Judas, Satan destroys; in the case of a Peter, Satan is used to make the Peter a better person. Note the words of Jesus carefully when he alerts Peter to what Satan was planning for him. He says, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.” When you sift wheat, you ensure that the chaff is separated from the wheat and you get wheat that is clean and pure. When Satan attacks a Peter, that is, someone who is devoted to honouring God, the result is a better person; not a destroyed person.
Everyone one of us will come under the radar of Satan every now and then. How far he goes with you and how much damage he is able to cause to you depends on whether you are a Judas, i.e. a person predisposed to evil or you are a Peter, a person sold out to faith and righteousness. Which are you: a Judas or a Pet.
By Uncle Ebo Whyte