Winnowing is meant to sort the wheat from the chaff. This farming principle was used by Rabbi Jesus to explain a reason why some things happen to us. It is meant to reveal those who were genuine and those who are simply along for what they can get. The master Teacher could easily draw a crowd as the supreme story teller. Others crowded Him as the miracle worker and healer. Who wouldn’t want a free fish and bread lunch or see amazing healings. To cap it all off this apparently unlearned man revealed the covetous nature of so many Scribes and Pharisees. Even today Jesus can draw a crowd whether it be through movies, meetings or testimonies, for or against Him.
Jesus confronted the multitudes with some interesting statements that unmasked those who were self seekers, not disciples. By His Holy Spirit and the Scriptures the process continues today. Consider John 6. Jesus talked about being the ‘Bread and Wine of Heaven’ and didn’t try and explain it. Even today His words are misunderstood or inadequately explained. This is a reference to Leviticus 17:11: ‘The life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement.’ Notice the link to the altar. This was the place for animal sacrifice. Each of those offerings on the altar were pictures of a future event which will fulfil them. That was and remains the cross on which Christ Jesus was crucified at Calvary. Not knowing the Scriptures, as was the case in John 6, still produces all types of weird conjectures.
The result? This statement became a winnowing of the commitment of those who gathered around Jesus. Those who were attached to Jesus because of ‘bread and fishes’ or seeing Him do signs and wonders were ‘blown away’ by Christ’s tough sayings. Those who simply enjoyed being with a celebrity were also sifted because it was no longer kosher to be seen in His presence. That remains true even today. Will we stand with the Lord on what He taught? Will we compromise our faith and be sifted on such matters as: Creation, the uniqueness of Christ Jesus, the cross and resurrection, the ‘Noah’ flood, the promise return of Christ to judge and rule, to highlight just a few. Today’s church going crowds will need to answer these questions. What will be their response? Will it be that of the crowd or ‘the twelve’ when asked by Jesus? “Do you also wish to go away?” What held this group to Jesus? Conviction! Peter’s reply must ultimately be ours: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Would Jesus make an exception about the principle of ‘winnowing’ for those with good social credentials? Remember the rich young man who asked about earning the gift of eternal life? (Luke 18:18–25) He was also observant of the Law and thereby had good moral integrity. Jesus challenged this young man on the issue of priority and faith. Would he relinquish his love of and security in money? Would Jesus become his Master and provider? The winnowing must have been severe in the heart of this inquirer. The breath of the Lord blew upon Mammon but the man would not let it depart from his heart.
There are forces, spiritual, physical and emotional which we may face. These may appear unannounced. They can pounce on any of us to crush, bruise and take us away from Jesus. Again the fisherman Peter becomes an example for us. In the future he would face the greatest crisis in His life. It would take place when he denied his Lord. This caused not merely emotional pain, guilt and self loathing it opened the door for Satan’s onslaught. What saved him? Jesus prayed for Peter. Then, after the resurrection, Jesus made a point of meeting with Peter and assuring him of forgiveness and re-instatement.
He does this for you too. He knows there will be times when you and I fail to stand the test. Jesus doesn’t abandon His disciples. Correct them yes. Forgive them definitely. Lift them up to get on with the task, assuredly. Jesus continues to be our intercessor (and restorer) according to Hebrews 7:25.
Jesus is up front to men and women who are drawn to Him. What He offers is beyond price and is eternal. However, there is a cost factor. You will be faced with it in many of the devotions. As Jesus went to the cross to secure for you all He promised so you must have a ‘death to self’ encounter to receive the promises. To walk in newness of Life means you could be opposed, ridiculed, ignored or condescendingly endured. Jesus considers this part of the sifting process. You must recognise what awaits you. When the choice is made you either begin the discipleship journey or remain uncommitted. In Athens you get a glimpse of the winnowing of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel. ‘When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” – But some of them joined him and became believers’. Acts 17:32–34