Sifting

by Dawn Aldrich

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 NIV

Cooking vocabulary amuses me. Strange words – braise, scald, blanch, fold, cream, and sift – describing culinary procedures designed for specific results. Some cooking steps cannot be skipped, but based upon my newlywed supply of kitchen gadgets, sifting was optional. Ignoring this step didn’t alter the taste of my cookies.

Years later I inherited a sifter and put it to use that Christmas. The recipe said, “sift all dry ingredients…twice.” Curious to compare the results, I patiently sifted.

Jesus used sifting imagery in Luke 22:31:

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 

He abruptly interrupts his disciples’ argument over who’ll be greatest in God’s kingdom with a warning to all (the Greek “you” in v. 31 is plural, as in, “Satan has asked to sift all of you”). Sifting was an optional procedure, but one God allowed for strengthening Peter’s faith for the encouragement of the other disciples.

Why sifting?

In ancient times, sifting removed the chaff (impurities) leaving only pure wheat kernels, ready for milling into baking flour. Today, it’s no longer necessary, but adds quality ̶ removes clumps from storage and adds air for lighter baked goods.

Satan’s motive for sifting the disciples, especially Peter (the Rock), was not for removing impurities or adding quality. Rather, just the opposite – to shake him to the core of his faith hoping he’d reject Jesus. However, Jesus prays his Father turn this sifting into something positive – that Peter’s faith be strengthened, so that when all the impurities were gone, only his pure, faithful heart remained – as an encouragement to the others.

Are you being sifted – maybe twice? Is your faith challenged to it’s core? Are you battle weary, wondering when peace will come? Although unpleasant, be encouraged for there is a purpose. Jesus, your high priest, prays on your behalf that you’ll be found pure, faithful, and strong – an encouragement and comfort to others.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. Hebrews 4:14 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Cor. 1:3-4

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