Today’s passage is Luke 22:1-6 and 31-34:
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.
3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
In the heat of the crucible that was Jesus’s false arrest, trial, and murder, two men were tested. And both denied Jesus. For one, the experience rendered him unable to bear his sin and led him to hang himself in a grisly death. For the other, the experience caused him to be strengthened in his faith and become the brave leader of the early church.
How can this be? I needed to make sense of it.
In the passage, it is the first day of Passover, the Jewish celebration that commemorates freedom from Egyptian enslavement. It is also the last meal that Jesus ate with his disciples before he marched to his triumphant death. Satan is mentioned twice here, framing the meal itself.
Satan. The tongue touches the back of the teeth, and the facial muscles clench to push the word out, “Satan.”
Adversary. In this case, adversary to Judas and Peter. And what a powerful adversary. Satan’s power lies in his understanding of the human psychology and how to manipulate it. In twisting and morphing our deepest desires into things we ourselves don’t recognize, Satan shakes us and breaks us up until we fall through his sieve and are lost.
Satan knows Judas values money more highly than Jesus; in the moment thirty pieces of silver was the selling price for the Lord (Matthew 26:15). Satan knows Peter’s identity relies on being a faithful disciple who loves Jesus above all else, who would go to death for Jesus. So Satan tests him on precisely this – is your love for your Lord really that strong? Are you who you think you are? Satan tries to ruin the image of Peter for Peter.
These two men were tested, and both fell. But they emerged from the crucible with outcomes that could not be farther away from each other.
Because Jesus prayed for Peter. Although Satan asked to sift “all” the disciples, the Bible records that Jesus prayed specifically for Peter.
Why just Peter? Why not Judas? Was Judas not equally loved?
The unfairness feels personal. What if I’m not equally loved? The wind is taken out of my sails. I read the story again and again. Finally, I sense the breeze pick up.
Jesus had equally loved. In fact, he had shown Judas and Peter the same leper healing, dead raising, and storm calming ministry. He had repeatedly extended to Judas salvation and a chance to turn back. Jesus had invited Judas to sit with the other disciples at the last supper, where he proclaimed that the bread piece he shared with Judas was his “body given for you” (Luke 22:19) and that the cup that Judas sipped from was his “blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). Jesus had dipped a morsel in his own bowl and given it to Judas (John 13:26), and had washed Judas’s feet along with the other disciples during the meal, longing for the whole person to be clean (John 13:10-11).
Jesus, in his divine foresight, was privy to Judas’s innermost thoughts and how they would be carried out. He knew that Judas would reject him and everything he stood for. By the same token, he also knew that Peter would come back.
Passover is not only a celebration of freedom from slavery, it is also a killing, because there can be no freedom without sacrifice. On this the first day of the festival, a young male lamb, without blemish, is typically given up (Exodus 12:5; 1 Peter 1:19). Its body is broken and its blood is poured out, smeared on the doorframe so that the inhabitants inside would be marked as God’s and kept safe.
The sacrifice of Jesus, the ultimate Passover Lamb, was for both Judas and Peter. It’s for all of us.
Ruirui Kuang ’12, a former Design Editor of the Ichthus, is currently working in the government sector in DC.