Today is known as Good Friday. This is the day in which millions of Christians around the world remember the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross in order that we might be reconciled to God.
Several years ago, I was visiting San Luis Potosi, Mexico and happened to be there on Good Friday. What I saw I will never forget. There were thousands of people packing the city-center square for a celebration. It had a somber tone, but it was mixed with the excitement of a holiday festival. There were vendors everywhere selling food and religious items. There were men and women of different religious orders dressed in costumes and colorful robes. The parade included hundreds of children dressed in bright regalia and there were large statues of saints being carried on people’s shoulders in a procession of elaborate floats. There were men dressed in Roman solider costumes who were part of a reenactment of Jesus’s crucifixion. It was an amazing sight to see.
And while on this day we remember Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross so that we may experience a full and abundant life with our Heavenly Father, I am reminded of another somber reality. Satan had a plan for Friday, too.
Let me take you back to Thursday night. It’s the night Jesus was arrested but it’s a few hours before that while he’s having the Passover meal with his disciples. Look at this brief interaction.
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Satan has asked permission to sift Peter and the other disciples. A term we might use today that has a similar meaning is that he’s asking to pick them apart. What!? What is going on here? This is reminiscent of Satan going to God to ask for permission to test Job.
The first thing I notice is that God is sovereign. He’s in control. He is not swayed by outside influence. Even Satan needs permission to do what he does. That is the power and authority our Heavenly Father has!
The second thing I wonder is, why? Why would God permit Satan to sift the disciples? I am quickly reminded of this passage from James.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
The disciples were about to endure the epitome of the testing of their faith when Jesus went to the cross. They would need to be strengthened, they would need endurance, and they would need assurance that Jesus was who he said he was and that he would do what he said he’d do. Set them free.
That’s why I love what Jesus says next. He prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. And even though Peter did stumble in his faith, his faith held up because Jesus was holding him up.
That’s what I’m focusing on this Good Friday. I have lately been in a season of trials and temptations. I have lately seen many friends struggle and perhaps even stumble, as well. I think we need to remember that we serve a God who not only died for us but that we also serve a God who gets up and bats for us when we’re down. When we’re at our lowest, our Savior prays on our behalf and injects his power. He died once to redeem me for all time. He also steps in every day to fight my fights. That is certainly good.
Trusting Him in the sifting,
Lead Pastor, White Oak Christian Church