By Michael E. Brooks
“And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat'” (Luke 22:31 NKJV).
Over years of missionary travels I have gained much enjoyment from photography. One of my all-time favorite pictures is of an adolescent girl sifting wheat by tossing it into the air from a shallow woven basket (tray) in the mountains of Nepal. The picture clearly shows the heavier kernels of grain falling back into the basket with the lighter husks (often called “chaff” in the Bible) and other waste being blown away by the breeze.
What makes that picture special to me is that it clearly shows the backdrop of the beautiful Himalayan mountains and also the proximity of a deep crevice, on the edge of which the girl is working.
On the night he was betrayed, while eating a final meal with his disciples, Jesus warned Simon (Peter) of the great danger which he faced. Unknown to Simon, Satan was bargaining with the Lord for his soul. He desired to throw him up and let the wind blow him where it would. Satan obviously believed and hoped that Peter would be proven unworthy and would perish. What a picture of temptation and sin. What a challenge to each of us as we consider the daily trials we face.
Consider the picture described above as a sort of parable or allegory, illustrating Simon’s plight. First, there is the acting agent — the girl who is tossing the wheat into the air. In the incident related in Luke 22, the one who desires this role is Satan, that he might tempt and destroy Peter.
Second, there is material being separated in the basket (wheat grains and chaff) — symbolic of Satan’s desire to sift Simon, and of all humans facing the circumstances of life (Matthew 13:21).
Third, there are the high mountains — illustrating Simon’s (and our) potential for good.
Fourth, there is the deep gorge over which the action takes place — obviously reflecting the danger facing Simon, the fate of chaff which is blown by the wind.
Fifth and finally, there is the basket into which the good grain falls — a place of refuge and potential usefulness. In Luke’s text, Jesus is Simon’s protector — “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:32). Peter’s place in the basket of refuge was guaranteed.
Men and women are constantly being tested and proven by the various activities of life. Just as the wind separates good kernels of grain from useless husks in the sifting process, so temptation to sin and opportunities to serve God each act to prove the true nature of every individual.
Faith in God, righteous conduct, and obedience to the commands of Jesus give weight and substance. Selfishness, pride, immorality, and uncleanness all reduce human life to a meaningless shell (Romans 1:20-32). Satan continuously sifts us to see which we are. Only Jesus can shelter and save us.
By Michael E. Brooks