The History of Simon Peter: 7. Peter Enters into Temptation

Luke 22:31‑62  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 8
31And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. 33And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. 34And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. 35And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. 36Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. 37For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. 38And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough. 39And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. 40And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. 41And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 42Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. 43And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 44And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, 46And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. 47And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. 48But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? 49When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? 50And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. 51And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him. 52Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? 53When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness. 54Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off. 55And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. 56But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. 57And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. 58And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. 59And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilean. 60And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. 61And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 62And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:31‑62)PETER had learned (John 13) what was necessary in order to have communion with the Lord. Recalling the blessings which had been unfolded to him since the beginning of his career, it would seem as if the circle were complete, and there remained nothing more to learn. But there was one thing without which all these blessings would be of no effect-the knowledge of and judgment of the flesh, and of its absolute incapacity before God; and this we have in Luke 22:3131And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: (Luke 22:31). Satan had desired to have the poor disciples that he might sift them as wheat. As in Job's case, the enemy had presented himself before God to accuse them. Availing himself of the moment favorable to his designs, when the Lord would be taken away from them, and they would be externally unprotected, he had asked to put them into the sieve, in the certainty that nothing would remain which God could accept. In this way he thought to wrest them from Christ, but he was mistaken. No doubt nothing of man would remain in the sieve; but what God had wrought in the disciples must remain. In his enmity Satan forgot that if he had all Power over the flesh, he had none with regard to God and what came from Him. God granted his request because He had purposes of grace and love towards Peter and the disciples, as He had of old towards Job. Peter was to be left in the enemy's hands that he might learn himself. Such dealing was needful for his blessing.
It was otherwise with Saul of Tarsus, who during his first interview with Christ on the way to Damascus learned what the flesh was. However painful it was, he had the happiness of learning it with God, and had not to come back again to it. From the first he could say, " I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing;" and also, We who " have no confidence in the flesh." Until he met Christ, his natural character in its full development had been plainly manifested in its fruits. Circumstances had proved that his flesh was animated without cause or reason by the most terrible enmity against Christ that it was possible to see. His conscience-and he had a great deal, for he said, " I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth"-had constituted him an implacable enemy of Jesus. Peter, as we have often said, had a sincere love for the Lord. If there were anything capable of hindering the flesh from acting, and of keeping him, it was that. Yet his love for Christ only produced self-confidence. Even with Paul, who had learned his lesson, the flesh sought later on to make communion with God a means of his being puffed up, and he needed an angel of Satan to keep him from falling; just as Peter needed a fall and Satan's sieve to open his eyes.
But if the enemy had displayed his activity, Christ had been at work before him, and had anticipated the moment of the sifting. " I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." (v. 32) He had interceded for Peter even before anything had passed in his conscience.
The first priestly act, that which regards God, had taken place unknown to Peter, and in view of his fall, which had not yet occurred. The second act came after the fall, when " the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter " (v. 61), and reached his conscience. One look from Christ was the starting-point of all the blessings which followed, recalling his heart to the love which had been in exercise to prevent his falling; and assuring him that this love, inexhaustible in its supply, was not changed by his unfaithfulness, and at length, reaching his conscience, caused him to shed bitter tears of repentance in presence of such grace.
Then only, when truly restored, would Peter be able to strengthen his brethren (v. 32), and to deal with the hearts and consciences of others. Ministry can only be exercised in self-judgment. All that Peter had previously learned could not have qualified him to be used in blessing to others. What fitted him for this was the knowledge of grace, starting with what he had had to pass through as to his own utter unworthiness.
The Lord now (v. 33) allowed Peter's self-confidence to be plainly manifested. "Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death." "I am ready." This was the flesh, ready to face everything. The flesh even when warned is always self-confident. If it had had even one atom of strength, the Lord's solemn warning should have hindered it from falling. But now the moment came when Peter, left to his own resources (vv. 35-38), accompanied the Lord to Gethsemane, and the Master was left alone. Not one of His disciples could watch one hour with Him. "Watch and pray," said He, "that ye enter not into temptation." (Matt. 26:4141Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)) "Watch and pray," that was what Jesus did. If Peter had listened (he slept in presence of temptation as he had done in presence of the glory) he would have been on his guard against the temptation, and in dependence on God, and he would not have entered into it. To enter into temptation as a man in the flesh was to succumb to it. Christ alone could enter into it and come out divinely victorious, obtaining the victory in dependence. He could have used His power to deliver Himself. At the sight of Him His enemies went backward and fell to the ground. He could have asked for legions of angels; but He submits, endures the treachery of Judas, yields all His rights (and what rights!) into the hands of men, as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, without a protestation or murmur. Peter did not watch or pray. He entered into temptation, and succumbed at once. He drew the sword with impatience to defend himself, and shed blood instead of accompanying the Savior to be struck like Him. He followed afar off, and entered into the high priest's court. The flesh could take him thus far, but then all its strength came to naught at the word of a servant.