Monday, February 27, 2017

Strengthen your brethren


And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”
Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:31-34)

Why did Satan asked to sift Peter? Why not Nathaniel or Thomas or any of the other 12?
In asking this several facts come to mind.

- When Job was placed in trial - it was to glorify God, as He was boasting to Satan of him.  Job was an exceptionally pious man and God loved him.

Among the 12 Peter was part of the special group of 3 (Peter James and John).  In fact, many consider him to be the leader among them all.  Yet he is the first to confess his sinfulness before Christ (Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man - Luke 5:8).  In this confession, he reveals not only his sinfulness, but an understanding of the holiness of God - this is exceptional.  He may have been a lowly fisherman, but he was an exceptionally pious fisherman, whom Satan desired to discredit, just as he tried to with Job.
God boasts in his people, and this sometimes incites Satan against them.

Therefore Christ tells Peter, “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail, and when you have returned to me, strengthen your brethren.”
Let us remember the Lords strong arm is with his people - not all trials are judgments upon us.

Strengthen your brethren.
This is what the Lord tells Peter to do when he is brought out from his trial.  Peters place as a prominent one among the 12 is not the reason he is to strengthen his brethren.  It's his pious attitude which made him subject to Satan's attack - this same tenderheartedness is used by the Lord to help him strengthen his brethren. His pious attitude has the expectation of becoming changed by his trial - so that he is more Christ-like in his piety.
But the trial hadn't occurred yet.

Verse 33 tells us what Peter is thinking - even planning to go to prison or death if need be for his Lord, but he was not ready for either.  In fact Peter cuts off Malchus' ear (John 18:10).  He did not yet grasp the greatness of Christ's mission - and that the Cross played a significant role in it.  How could he?

Strengthen your brethren.
We are reminded that upon Christs' resurrection, John records Christs' restoration of Peter.  And 3 times Peter is told to strengthen his brethren, Feed my lambs. Tend my lambs. Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)

Strengthen your brethren.
We may have plans to serve our Lord – and it can appear that trials get in the way.  Perhaps we should consider this God's theological seminary, so that we can better fulfill his plans for us.

Peter was (so he thought) ready to go to prison or death for the Lord.  Yet it was not the time for that, nor was he ready to do so.  He indeed did go to prison and die for his Lord - many years later, after he had strengthened his brethren.

Writing not 1, but 2 apostolic letters to the church - Peter could hardly know before the denial how much he would help his brethren.  We are the blessed ones who have received the strengthening of his words.  In the opening words of I Peter we read,

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” (I Pet. 1:6b-7)

Peter tells us to walk in holiness, that we are a chosen people, that we ought to live in submissiveness to the government and have right relationships to one-another.  We are reminded to be prepared to suffer for God's glory.  He gives instruction to the elders how they are to shepherd the Church of God.  We all ought to be a humble people...  And this is all in his 1st letter!

Strengthen your brethren.
It is not only to the disciples then living Peter was to strengthen.  It was not even only to the pilgrims of the dispersion at various places in AD 60 when he wrote his 1st letter (I Pet. 1:1-2).

It was to the apostles, disciples, pilgrims, and all believers down through the centuries - including you who believe in Christ and read this post.

Peter was and is able to strengthen his brethren - but only after his trials.  His example is ever before us, he was not perfect (indeed - his denial was not the last grievous matter he suffered through - see Galatians 2:11-13).  If he indeed could be an encouragement to us, shouldn't we seek to encourage and edify one another also?!
May the grace of our providential God strengthen us by the words of Peter, and also of Paul, Luke, John, James, Matthew, Moses, David, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel and all those He used to communicate his eternal Word to us! 

Aren't you glad you have a Bible to read?!  Then go - strengthen your brethren.

Amen.

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