Imagine a curtain that separates what happens in the non-visible realm of spiritual powers from obvious events in history.
There are non-visible powers that are active in the world. God is active in the world for the good of humans.
John 3.16 describes his actions for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
The other non-visible power is Satan and the evil spirits under his control.
God and Satan have competing agendas. Satan is powerful, but he is not all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present as is God.
Satan is behind the intense opposition that we will read about in Luke 22 and 23. He intended to thwart God’s work through Jesus but ended up being defeated by his own plans.
To the ordinary observer, God may have appeared absent as Jesus endured the horrific treatment of his very creation. Yet, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5.19).
On the other side of the curtain are the events of history. For the most part, people were not aware of either God or Satan influencing the events.
Just the same, the people involved were not puppets being pulled by invisible strings. They were responsible human beings and accountable for their behavior.
Both Luke and Jesus give the reader of the Gospel insight into the interplay between human responsibility and invisible activity by God and Satan.
Jesus and Peter
Jesus told Peter that Satan intended to use Peter and the other disciples for his purposes.
— Luke 22.31-32 – “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat,
“But I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Just as Satan used Judas as a tool for his purposes (Luke 22.3), he intended to “sift all of [the disciples] as wheat.”
One of the things that makes the Bible believable is the way it treats its heroes. Peter was destined to be the leader of the church, but Jesus told him he would be an instrument of Satan.
There is no way for this to be true unless it actually was. To my knowledge, the most honest representation of heroes in ancient literature is found in the Bible.
If Peter could be influenced by Satan, so can we. Jesus’ words in the Garden to his followers – “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial” (Luke 22.40) – is his prescription for protection against the schemes of the evil one.
Jesus’ words, “I have prayed for you,” are such a comfort.
There are times, when we need to ask the Lord, “Jesus please pray for me. Please pray for my loved one. Please pray for a certain situation.”
Jesus’ prayers are not limited to the first-century followers. “He always lives to make intercession” (Hebrews 7.25).
— Luke 22.33-24 – And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!”
Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day until you have denied three times that you know me.”
Peter’s response to Jesus was in keeping with what we have learned about him in the Gospel. After the resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter did go to prison and death for Jesus.
At this time, however, Jesus knew Peter would fail.
Jesus knew the power of Satan to influence the thought process of individuals. He knew Peter was not ready to combat the evil one.
Jesus also knew that Peter would repent. “Turn back” is the language of repentance. He also knew that Peter would play a pivotal role in strengthening the church.
A Message for Today
The dynamic that I outlined at the beginning of today’s article is still active.
God is at work. He is moving history toward the goal “to gather up all things in [Jesus Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesian 1.10) where Jesus will be preeminent.
Satan, likewise, is at work in the world.
Humans can be influenced and used by God or Satan, depending on our willingness to follow their lead.
The most effective preparation to choose the right leader is to follow Jesus’ command, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial” (Luke 22.40).
As we are in contact with the Father and aligned with his purposes, we will be good citizens in his kingdom.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. Rudy has several insights that you will appreciate, as you listen to his thoughts. The video is on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.