Sifted as Wheat

Luke 22Sifted as Wheat

Satan asked to sift them as wheat.

I eavesdropped on the cosmic conversation between the Lover and the enemy of my soul, and my knees didn’t feel like they were made to hold up a whole body any more. Good that they were already on the floor.

I read the text again and wondered, How often?

How commonplace is it for the evil one to strut into the Throne Room and demand to shovel the Father’s beloved into a sieve to be shaken up and banged around and knocked right through the screen?

How often does it happen, this discussion?

They’d spoken in the past about Job — more than once. The earth careened backwards for Job after that.

But Job was an aberration, right? I’ve always liked to think so. 

And I’ve often offset my discomfort with my own failure to be blameless and upright with supposing that at least I’ll probably never fear God and shun evil quite enough to make me into that kind of target for such devilish shenanigans anyway.

Jesus told Peter this. That Satan had asked.

It was right after they’d shared that meal together where Jesus said He wouldn’t eat or drink with them again, not until the Kingdom came in its fullness. Right after Judas skulked off to give Him over to the priests. And right after the disciples scuffled over who was more awesome and should sit closest to Jesus.

(If Job had been around, he might have suggested they opt for the seat that wasn’t quite so awesome.)

Satan had asked. If you like the ESV better, he didn’t ask. He demanded. Rather makes me think this was no oddity. Perhaps he retraced steps into the presence of the Holy that he’d taken time and time again, seeking some latitude from our Keeper to put one of His faithful to the test.

Perhaps the cosmic conversation was more familiar than I’d like to think.

But what interest would Satan have in sifting the disciples like wheat? To run the harvest through the sieve was to snag the gravel and debris before storing up the grain that ran out the bottom. Why would he spend his time testing, proving, purifying these men? What did he care if they came through clean?

Would he not take interest in testing only to prove them wrong?

Sifted as WheatUnfit. Useless.

He’d much rather see those kernels of wheat stuck on top of the mesh, still rattling around in the basket with the dirt clods to be chucked away from the threshing floor.

Perhaps when he insisted on clearance to jar them about in the sieve he was thinking of the way God sifted Israel and nearly destroyed every last one of her people and hoping to destroy these men the same way.

What he didn’t count on was Jesus. 

Jesus who, on knowing of Satan’s demand, would rush the Throne Room Himself, shove him out of the way and plead in Peter’s stead for his faith to stay firm.

But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:32)

Peter found His plea unnecessary.  Just hours before the cock would announce his failure, Peter would crow of his sure-footedness.

But I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Peter, Jesus would say.

He had to pray.

He’d been praying while they’d been sleeping, because He knew what Peter was up against.

He knew what Peter would do and what he would say. How he would curse to make the painful point that he didn’t even know the man who was the Son of Man.

He prayed for Peter’s faith to remain firm, knowing full well how utterly it would fail.

Knowing how utterly my faith would fail — how it was failing in that very moment — I crumpled over at the bedside in my office. Reading past hot tears, I begged.

Would You, Jesus, pray that for me?



Photo: Poppy in Wheat by Johnny Nyberg

24 responses

  1. love love love this!

    2011/05/10 at 9:54 AM

  2. Oh, friend.

    I’m bowed low just in the reading of this.

    How you see. How you teach. Always, always.

    I don’t even know what else to say. This is just hauntingly beautiful, and I feel it in the marrow.

    2011/05/10 at 10:10 AM

    • Just like we talked about . . . it’s always there. But depending on the day, the circumstance, the Spirit, we see something different from time to time. Always the Spirit opening a Word that lives and breathes.

      2011/05/10 at 5:42 PM

  3. Well researched and amazingly portrayed. i don’t know a thing about wheat, but I do know a thing or two about Satan. And I know about being tried. You brought them all together.

    2011/05/10 at 11:25 AM

    • I don’t know anything about wheat either, David. But I did find a helpful 5-step tutorial on harvesting on I feel like I could even be a farmer just by following those simple steps. (Who knew it was as easy as following the owner’s manual for the combine?) I sent it along to our mutual friend the farmer’s wife.

      2011/05/10 at 5:44 PM

  4. Your writing makes scenes like these vividly real … thank you.

    2011/05/10 at 5:35 PM

  5. Dave


    I was so ‘there’ as I read. And I so needed your reminder that when sifting occurs, Jesus prays.

    For me.

    Even – especially – for me.

    2011/05/10 at 5:37 PM

    • Aye, Dave, I have dibs on the “especially” around these parts. He prays and I still fall. Can’t imagine what I’d be doing if He didn’t rush the throne for me.

      2011/05/10 at 5:45 PM

  6. Oh so there. In more ways than one.

    You dig deep.

    2011/05/10 at 7:20 PM

  7. hi lyla 🙂
    this is a heavy duty post you’ve got here, woman!

    2011/05/10 at 7:39 PM

  8. I feel just the way Susan does – you bring scripture to life in amazing technicolor pictures with your words.
    I have thought some of these same things, but you have given me so much more to think about.
    So good Lyla; thank you.

    2011/05/10 at 8:28 PM

    • Been thinking about these for a while, Linda. So much in these few verses, and left me a long time just not even knowing what to do. But He knows.

      2011/05/10 at 9:31 PM

  9. I have never been able to wrap my mind over Jesus praying for me, maybe even leaving his throne to kneel in prayer. The king kneeling for me…it does bring tears. This is lovely, Lyla–one of my favorites.

    2011/05/10 at 8:41 PM

    • Humbling, Jennifer. Humbling.

      2011/05/10 at 9:31 PM

    • Wow, Jennifer. I always saw Jesus chatting with His Father side-by-side. But that image, of Him kneeling, as He surely did in Gethsemane? Oh my. Whew. Yes, I am humbled.

      2011/05/19 at 11:22 PM

  10. “And when you have turned back…” He left Peter with hope, because He knew he would turn back, because He knew that through the breaking of Peter’s faith, he would be stronger for Him.

    It speaks so of how Jesus knew Peter’s love for Him, speaks so deeply of their relationship, and the trust He had in His friend, even knowing the denial would come. I’m going to turn this one over for a while…

    2011/05/11 at 10:07 AM

  11. From the breathtaking red in a sea of green down through the pain to the collapse in tears, I’m there and now can barely see through my own tear blurred eyes…oh Lyla, what comfort that He prays for us because some pain is too deep for words…bless you friend.

    2011/05/13 at 8:40 AM

  12. sorry it’s taken me so long to get over here, Lyla.
    I can’t read heavy when my heart is sometimes.

    This , this is a gift . Thank you.

    2011/05/13 at 2:02 PM

  13. your heart and your soul, lyla–so beautiful.

    2011/05/15 at 10:37 AM

  14. And I wonder…does he have to get permission for the lighter sifting? Like me this morning with a bazillion hassles trying to get me to scream? If so, then, wow–yeah, he must be hanging around that throne room all the time. But this–this is what I love: “He didn’t count on Jesus”.

    He’s always missing the important stuff, isn’t he?

    Love to you, Lyla. I hope you are doing well. Your writing here takes me deeper, as always. Love the way His Word sinks in to me over here.

    2011/05/16 at 11:58 AM

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