“Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Jesus was only a stone’s throw away from his three closest disciples, when he lay prostrate on the ground, sobbing and praying for the cup to pass. The thick grove of olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane provided a quiet and private place Jesus would often go to pray. He had brought his disciples with him so they could pray and keep watch. These were the last few moments he’d have to gather strength and find resolve before he faced the cross. His agony was so profound, that he was near the point of death, and still, his disciples ignored his pleas and slept.
Waves of Temptation
Why were the disciples so oblivious and seemingly unaffected by the extreme suffering Jesus was facing? A few hours before coming to the garden, they had celebrated Passover, and this one must have felt heavier than all the years before. Jesus instituted the elements of the new covenant and gave his disciples bread and wine to represent his body and blood. He was transforming the last Passover into the first observance of the Lord’s Supper. But His body and blood? How strange and foreboding it must’ve all felt.
New death-laden imagery hung in the air, and Jesus laid out even more somber warnings. Each new warning crashed upon them like the waves that battered their fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee.
- Wave one: Jesus was about to die.
- Wave two: one of the disciples would betray him.
- Wave three: Peter would deny him three times.
- Wave four: all of them would defect on account of him and be scattered like sheep without a Shepherd.
Before the tsunami of the crucifixion crashed upon them, the tidal waves of temptation were barreling toward them at breakneck speed. Jesus and his disciples would all be tempted, but in different ways, and with different outcomes. Jesus would rise from the agony in the garden with power and determination. The disciples would cower in fear, deny they knew Jesus, and turn tail and run.
Tempted Yet Without Sin
We may struggle to see ourselves in the temptations Jesus faced because we focus on his deity, and neglect to see his humanity. It’s easier to identify with Peter and the other disciples because their humanness is so obvious. Who hasn’t wanted to check out of present sufferings with sleep? When sorrows weigh heavy on a heart, often the most merciful reprieve we experience is a few hours of unconscious escape. But for the disciples, this escapism only weakened their flesh for the oncoming temptations. Jesus was tempted in the same ways we are, yet he never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).
Prevailing Through the Word
Jesus was no stranger to temptation. The beginning of his ministry was marked by a series of three temptations Satan presented him in the wilderness.
- (Lust of the flesh) Grab satisfaction, Jesus, for your hunger, and turn these stones to bread.
- (Lust of the eyes) Grab satisfaction, Jesus, and show us that you’re really God and jump off this precipice. The angels will catch you (hopefully)!
- (Lust of the pride of life) Grab satisfaction, Jesus, and rule over all the kingdoms of the world, just bow down and worship me first.
Jesus prevailed over every temptation by knowing the Word of God. Each time he rebuked Satan with, “It is written…”.
Prevailing Through Prayer
Now at the end of his earthly ministry, Satan tempts again, this time to avoid the cross altogether. When we’re tempted, we struggle to resist sin and cling to holiness. Jesus struggled to let go of his holiness in order to embrace sin-bearing. John MacArthur said, “We fight to hold onto God. He fought to let go of God. We fight to be joined to God; He fought against being separated from God.” Jesus triumphed over temptation again, this time through prayer. While he had prayed for the cup to pass, he was also surrendering his will to the Father. There was no other way to redeem humanity but to drink this cup down the very last drop.
How to Prevail Over Temptation
So what’s the secret to prevailing over temptation, Jesus’-style? How can we reject sin, and cling to holiness? The answer is found in Matthew 26:41. “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’”
- Keep Watch – Stay awake to the temptations that are around you. Don’t give in to the flesh and fall asleep. Jesus fought temptation in the wilderness with, “It is written…”. We must do the same and keep guard over our own hearts by knowing the Word of God. Our lives and victory over temptation depend on it.
- Keep Praying – Satan tempted Jesus three times in the wilderness, and three times in the garden. Each time Jesus prayed the “same thing” (Matthew 26:44). You too can pray the same thing until you feel you’ve unburdened your heart. Jesus prayed until his will was surrendered to the Father’s (Luke 22:42). That’s the goal for us too.
- Know Your Weaknesses – Peter had famously boasted that though all might forsake Jesus, he never would. He meant well, but his flesh was weak. He thought he could sleep through the preparation for war, and still win. Know your weaknesses, and make provision for your weakness, by strengthening your spirit through #1, and #2.
Sorrow Unto Joy
Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, Isaiah foretold the Messiah would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). But Jesus is no longer sorrowful. The author of Hebrews said it was for the joy set before him, that he endured the cross and despised its shame (Hebrews 12:2). It was for his and our eternal, unshakeable, unfading joy that he overcame the temptations that would’ve kept him from the cross. If we want to experience victory over sin and temptation, we must recognize our weaknesses, pray, and know his Word.
Man of Sorrows what a name! For the Son of God, who came. Ruined sinners to reclaim: Hallelujah, what a Savior!
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