Calvary Road Baptist Church

“CHRIST’S WARNING”

Luke 22.31 

Sometimes, just when you think things are going so well for you, all Hell breaks loose.

Such was the case with a man named Job, the married father of ten who enjoyed great wealth and intense devotion to God. What could go wrong? For him, life was very good. Then, one day, a messenger told Job that Sabeans had stolen his oxen and asses and had slain the servants tending to them.[1] While that messenger was speaking, another told him the fire of God fell from heaven, killing all his sheep and those who tended them.[2] While that second messenger was speaking, yet a third came and told Job that the Chaldeans had stolen all his camels and killed those who tended them.[3] Then, while all this was being told to Job, a fourth messenger rushed in and delivered a thunderclap of calamity. A great wind had destroyed the house where his ten children were dining, killing them all.[4]

It would be impossible for me to imagine so devastating a series of hammer blows, with the worst, of course, being the deaths of his beloved children. Yet, on top of all that, Job was additionally overcome “with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.”[5] How could such things happen to a man all at once? How is a man to grieve for his sons and daughters when his own flesh is rotting away?

Though there is no indication in God’s Word that Job ever knew of the involvement of Satan in his life’s afflictions, we know from God’s Word that though Satan could do nothing to Job without God’s prior permission, permission was granted, and Satan was given liberty to afflict Job most grievously in his finances, in his family, and physically.

I mention Job’s afflictions to you because there are things about life you need to come to grips with. One of the things you need to know is that from Job’s experiences, we discern that many times things, even devastating things, can take place in your life for reasons and involving personalities you are entirely unaware of. You think you know what is going on, but you have not a clue.

We will examine the Lord Jesus Christ’s warning to His apostles about Satan’s assault on their lives and testimonies. Our text is Luke 22.31. That verse records a statement made by our Lord after He instituted the communion of the Lord’s Supper, but probably before He took His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He was crucified: 

“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” 

Suppose you are familiar with the events surrounding Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Christ and the Last Supper. In that case, you will remember that the Lord Jesus and the twelve were observing Passover in an upper room. During the evening, the Lord selected a portion of the traditional Passover meal and with it initiated the ordinance our Church now observes as the communion of the Lord’s Supper. Then He indicated that one of those present with them would betray Him, thereby creating great consternation among the twelve, eleven of them wondering if it was him, and one of them knowing that the Master knew about his arrangement with the priests for money. He then dismissed Judas Iscariot to do what the others did not know to be his dirty work. At about the same time, an argument broke out among them concerning who would be the greatest among them.[6]

Notice our text once again: 

“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” 

Notice that the Master does not use the name He gave to him, Peter, meaning stone. Instead, perhaps to emphasize Simon Peter’s weakness, and probably because Simon Peter’s was likely the loudest voice in the argument about who would be the greatest, the Lord Jesus speaks his name, twice.

It is very significant in Scripture for someone’s name to be spoken twice in this manner. When the LORD said, “Abraham, Abraham,” it was to stop Abraham from slaying his son, Isaac, atop Mount Moriah.[7] When the LORD said, “Moses, Moses,” He spoke to him from the burning bush on Mount Sinai.[8] Darius, the Persian king, cried out, “Daniel, O Daniel,” to see if his aged friend, Daniel, had survived the night in the lion’s den.[9] Thus, it is easy to see that when God calls out a man’s name twice, it is very significant. When Darius called out Daniel’s name twice, it indicated his great fondness for the man of God and his fear for Daniel’s safety.

Consider, also, those instances when the Lord Jesus Christ twice uttered a person’s name. Once, when visiting her and her sister Mary and brother Lazarus, the Savior said, “Martha, Martha,” as He lovingly rebuked her for being too busy.[10] Then, after His resurrection from the dead, my Lord appeared to Saul of Tarsus, who was traveling to Damascus to persecute Christians, and said to him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” forever changing the life of the man who would be known as the Apostle Paul.[11]

If the other times in Scripture when someone’s name is uttered twice are any indication, something momentous is about to take place to Simon Peter. On this occasion, the Savior issues a warning: 

“Behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” 

Things seemed to be going so well for the apostles. The Lord Jesus Christ had given sight to blind Bartimaeus and his friend in Jericho only a week earlier. Then He dined with the wealthy publican, Zacchaeus, before heading West to Bethany and Lazarus and his sisters’ home, just outside Jerusalem. A couple of days ago, two men were dispatched to fetch a young donkey colt, and the Lord rode into Jerusalem in great triumph, fulfilling prophecy and declaring Himself by His actions to be Israel’s Messiah, before cleansing the Temple. The whole city was in an uproar. The man they had followed and served for more than three years was on a roll. The air in Jerusalem was electric with anticipation.

Simon Peter and the others seemed to feel that something spectacular was about to happen, but they did not know what it was. Their Lord Jesus had wept while riding the young donkey into the city, even while everyone around Him was shouting “Hosanna” and throwing their outer garments and palm branches along His path.

This Thursday evening, they were finding the Passover meal intoxicating. It began by the Master washing their feet. Imagine. Then He said something about one of them betraying Him, causing great confusion and bewilderment. They ate bread and drank wine, and then He sent Judas on some errand or something, and one of the twelve started an argument about who would be the greatest before the Master rebuked them all.

Just as the remaining twelve men in the room paused to catch their breath from a lively conversation, Christ spoke in a low tone, but very serious: 

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” 

This was very clearly a warning. Of what was the Lord Jesus warning? We find out by considering the four aspects of the Master’s warning: 

The First Aspect Of The Warning Is THE FACT THAT SATAN DESIRES 

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired ....” 

Notice two things about Satan’s desire:

First, there is the demand of Satan. I recognize that the English phrase reads, “Satan hath desired to have you,” but the word used in the Greek text is considerably stronger. Not that Satan’s was not a real desire, but more intense than we usually mean when we use the word desire. One commentator indicates that the real sense of the passage is this: 

“Satan has laid claim on thee. He has asked God to deliver you up to him ....”[12] 

Satan, similar to the demands he made that Job’s loyalty and devotion be subjected to a severe test, had asked for and obtained the right of subjecting all the disciples to a severe test.[13] This is consistent with the verb used here, the word exaitew meaning to ask for with emphasis and with the implication of having a right to do so.[14] It should be a sobering notion for you to be informed that Satan was insisting on the freedom to subject your faith to a test.

This should be reinforced by the direction of Satan’s demand. Satan has no good intentions toward you or me or anyone else for that matter. Since he led the rebellion in heaven, he has always opposed the plan and purpose of God. In Revelation 12.9, we are told that he deceives the whole world, while the very next verse informs us that he is the accuser to God of the brethren and that he accuses the brethren to God day and night. He tempted Eve and lured her into sin, at which point Adam sinned and plunged humanity into the darkness of depravity. He provoked David to commit sin.[15] He resisted the high priest, Joshua.[16] He tempted the Lord Jesus in the wilderness.[17] He drew Judas Iscariot into betraying Christ.[18] Thus, there can be no doubt that Satan’s desires have malicious intent and are properly described as diseased desires. Or, perhaps, depraved desires. 

The Second Aspect Of The Warning Is THE FACT THAT SATAN DESIRES THEM ALL 

While it is true that the Savior spoke directly to Simon Peter, saying, “Simon, Simon,” He spoke in the presence of them all and was referring to them all. Two considerations:

First, there is the form of the pronoun you. It is the Greek word ὑmᾶV. ὙmᾶV is the plural form of the word you, y’all to southerners. If the Lord Jesus Christ has been speaking to Simon Peter about Simon Peter and not the others, He would have used the word sέ. Thus, there is no possible confusion about who the Savior was talking to (Peter) or who He was talking about (all of them). Why speak to Simon, in particular, while intending the warning to be addressed to them all? It is likely because Simon Peter, as the first among equals, and as the one most confident that he will not fail his Lord, is the most vulnerable of those remaining. Paul would write, 

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”[19] 

Next, the fuel of Satan’s passion. Satan’s great motivation is his fiery hatred of God, owing to God’s holiness and malignant wickedness. Being estranged from God, Satan cannot help but oppose God’s plan and purpose to avoid the lake of fire that he knows was created for him and those who followed in his rebellion.[20] Since Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh, we understand why Satan tempted Him in the wilderness. However, having failed in his attempts to entice my Lord to sin, Satan turns to less direct means to thwart God’s purpose. He now directs His attacks against the twelve apostles, who will sit in judgment over the twelve tribes of Israel, we are told in Luke 22.30: 

“That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” 

It was precisely because the Lord Jesus Christ had such great things in store for the apostles that Satan was so intent on bringing them down and destroying their faith. He must destroy the apostles to succeed in his opposition to God and God’s Son. 

The Third Aspect Of The Warning Is THE END FOR WHICH SATAN DESIRES THEM 

To be sure, Satan’s desire is their destruction. However, it is important that we understand the means he seeks to employ to destroy the apostles’ faith and effectiveness. Consider Christ’s unusual description:

He provides a picture of Satan’s desire: “that he may sift you as wheat.” 

“A writer who has first-hand information about Oriental practices because he has been an eye witness to these, tells us that a woman generally manipulated the sieve. This is his record of the process. She ‘grasps the sieve, half-filled with grain, in both hands. She begins her work, which she carries out with remarkable dexterity, by vehemently shaking the sieve from left to right some six or seven times. Naturally, such shreds of straw and bits of chaff as were still mixed with the grain rise to the surface. Most of these she can take and throw away with her hand. Now she puts the sieve through the motion of a teeter-totter, raising this side first and then that, blowing hard over the screen of her tool all the while. This part of the procedure, executed with special skill, has three results. First: all the dirt, and all the shriveled kernels fall to the ground through the interstices. Second: such straw and chaff as still remain are scattered or brought to rest by her blowing in that part of the sieve which is farthest from her. Third: the good grain remains, heaped up in the center of the sieve, and the bits of stone form a separate mass in that part of the sieve which is nearest her. Thereupon she takes the stones, straw, and chaff out with her hand.”[21] 

What the Lord was describing represented a violent shaking to make the separation of the wheat from the chaff so much easier. The picture, of course, represents what will happen to those well-intentioned men. Their lives will not merely be turned upside down. That would be an understatement.

This, of course, exposes the purpose of Satan’s desire. The whole purpose of sifting is to subject the grain to such violence that the undesirable is separated from the desirable. By shaking the sieve up and down the twigs and the small pieces of rock become separated from the grain and can be easily picked out. By violently rocking the sieve back and forth and blowing, the heavier wheat falls back into the sieve while the lighter chaff is blown away. Of course, the difference with Satan is that he does not want the wheat separated from the chaff, leaving the wheat and casting off the useless chaff. Speaking of the Savior in Matthew 3.12, John the Baptist shows our Lord’s motives: 

“Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 

The Lord Jesus’ desire is to gather His wheat and burn the chaff. Satan’s purpose is quite opposite. While Job had the same experience, Satan’s intention was to harm Job, while God’s intention was to purify Job. As Joseph said to his brothers after his father died, in Genesis 50.20, 

“ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.” 

Make no mistake about it, my friend. The Devil means it for evil when he sifts someone. He works to destroy a person’s life, to test the limits of an individual’s faith, to put on display the realities of your spirit and soul. His goal, of course, is your destruction. 

The Final Aspect Of The Warning Is THE MOMENT SATAN DOES THE DESIRING 

When should Simon Peter be ready for Satan’s sifting? When should the apostles be ready for Satan’s sifting? When should you be ready for Satan’s sifting? You should be ready now! Notice two things:

First, notice the tense of Satan’s demand. 

“In order to appreciate the fine shade of distinction in the text, we must remember that in Greek a particular action can be designated in two ways. Sometimes the action is presented as one which takes place completely and instantaneously, and sometimes as one which continues. The Greek language has a way of indicating whether an action is instantaneous or continuous.

“The remarkable thing is that in this text Christ points to Satan’s desiring as occurring instantaneously, in a given moment of time. When Christ says: ‘Satan hath desired to have you,’ that form of the verb is used which indicates the instantaneous and not the continuous action. In other words, Christ indicates that Satan’s sinister desires have reached a climax.”[22] 

Then, notice the form of Satan’s demand. What did our Lord say? 

“Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” 

Our Lord Jesus Christ is reporting to His disciples that Satan had voiced a request to God, had expressed what bordered on a demand from God, had urged upon God that those men be subjected to the same scrutiny Job had been subjected to. In other words, Satan had prayed to God, asking, insisting, demanding, pleading for those men, that he might sift them as wheat. He did not pray to God to their good end, for Satan desires only and always evil for God and for God’s own. However, he did pray. 

Why do you think the Lord Jesus Christ warned His men? Satan wanted them, demanded them, all of them, to sift them, and he wanted them now. It is apparent that Satan’s siftings are not at all pleasant and are not designed to evoke warm and fuzzy feelings of well-being about your relationship with God. His goal is to destroy, to discourage, to demean, to defile, to dismember if possible, every aspect of your faith.

That being the case, why do you think the Lord Jesus Christ warned Simon Peter and the other ten who remained after Judas Iscariot was lost to their cause? The Lord Jesus Christ warned His men because Satan’s prayer, Satan’s plea, Satan’s demand, was granted.

Do you think Satan tempted Eve without first obtaining God’s permission to tempt her? Do you think Satan provoked King David without first obtaining God’s permission to provoke him?

Do you think Satan could have tempted our Lord Jesus in the wilderness without first being granted permission by God the Father?

The point that needs to be made is that though Satan can do nothing without God’s permission, as we see in Job chapters 1 and 2, God does grant permission to Satan to sift individuals.

Mark it down, my friend. God will grant permission for Satan to sift you as wheat. Are you ready for it because he wants to sift you right now? When it happens, and it will happen, remember this message from God’s Word.

Some of you have been sifted as wheat. Others of you are being sifted as wheat. The rest of you will be sifted as wheat. Those who have been sifted, and those who are being sifted, will tell you if you ask them that they were not ready for it.

This series of messages is designed so you will be ready for the sifting when it comes.

__________

[1] Job 1.14-15

[2] Job 1.16

[3] Job 1.17

[4] Job 1.18-19

[5] Job 2.7

[6] Luke 22.21-30

[7] Genesis 22.11

[8] Exodus 3.4

[9] Daniel 6.20

[10] Luke 10.41

[11] Acts 9.4

[12] Klaas Schilder, Christ In His Suffering, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House reprint, 1979), page 256.

[13] Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary On The Gospel of Luke, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1951), page 566.

[14] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 344.

[15] 1 Chronicles 21.1

[16] Zechariah 3.1

[17] Matthew 4.1-11

[18] John 13.27

[19] 1 Corinthians 10.12

[20] Matthew 25.41

[21] Schilder, page 257.

[22] Klaas Schilder, Christ In His Suffering, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House reprint, 1979), page 259.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

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