Temptation and Joy in Prayer
No one had slept. It was possible that some took little naps between all the activities that surrounded the last night of Jesus’ life, but more than likely they didn’t. It was already late after the Passover meal.
The inner circle had major plans for a future with Jesus as their leader. Jesus was already making waves and it took less than four years for Him to show up and to upset the religious and political leaders of their time. Jesus had the needy on His side as long as He kept meeting their needs, but they were powerless to keep Him from His future.
Jesus knew it was His last supper, but they didn’t. For them, tomorrow would make room for another meal. Another time to build on the topic of how Jesus would be King. Jesus tried to tell them what His Kingdom looked lik, but they were distracted. One of them, Judas, had plans of his own. It’s debatable whether Judas knew that they were going to kill Jesus or possibly keep Him incarcerated. Yet Judas went about betraying Jesus.
I speculate that Judas didn’t know exactly how bad it was to get for Jesus and later, his lifeless body swinging from a tree helped my speculation that he didn’t and was overcome with guilt.
Let’s let Luke 22:39-46 (NASB95) tell the story:
39And [Jesus] came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. 40When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
41And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, 42saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” 43Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.
44And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. 45When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, 46and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Jesus made a habit out of prayer.
His days were long, and the pressure came from all directions. After pouring His teachings into the lives of 12 men, late into the night He went into His usual spot, a peaceful garden to pray.
The 12 men followed him to the Mount of Olives and when he reached the Garden of Gethsemane, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” He separated Himself to pray alone, but He could still see them from where He knelt.
Many Christians know this prayer. Although the Lord’s Prayer (also called the Our Father) is popular, it’s this prayer that seems to resonate with believers who are going through unbelievably hard times and feel a little doubt creeping into their hearts.
Theologians explain away Jesus one-time request to change the plan as “include for our benefit.” Some go as far as to say that it was the Humanity of Jesus that cried out, “May I quit?” But the God part of Jesus knew that He couldn’t quit and changed His mind, again.
I don’t believe seeing this as Jesus’ “weak moment” lines up with the Word of God. Here’s why…
Moments before this prayer, Jesus gave us an idea of what He would soon be facing during His prayer time. He did that by telling the disciples, what they should be praying for, “…that you may not enter into temptation.”
Jesus was praying!
41And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, 42saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
Jesus, in His time of agony asked if the Father could do the work of salvation another way. That the Father’s Will would be to remove this cup (the suffering He was about to experience), yet, if there wasn’t, then He would submit to the Will of His Father.
Theologically, it can get a littlea little bit of work to keep Jesus in a position as God.
Does God listen to anyone? Sometimes yes (Joshua 10:14) and sometimes no (Isaiah 40:13).
Does God submit His will to humans? (Isaiah 46:10) Never. Jesus was submitting His will to the Father and that is very different than God submitting to humans.
You see, Jesus wasn’t a regular human in a regular relationship with His Father. Sure, externally He didn’t look special enough for anyone to take notice, but internally, He was a one-of-a-kind creation of human flesh, mysterious mingled with the pure divine.
He is the God-Man.
5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
This mysterious one-of-a-kind creation, who was both God and Man, did things that we can’t imagine God doing, like…
- Emptying Himself – theologians still have a problem with defining what this really means.
- Taking on a form of a bond-servant – to go from existing as God to existing as God and Man, two 100%.
- Being made in the likeness of men – the Creator being made into His creation
- Being found in appearance as a man – made to look like everyone else and like humanity, His physical form had the same a fragile existence.
- He humbled Himself – Sounds a little bit crazy! The only being that exists who can pridefully and rightfully say He made it all, had to submit Himself to His creation. For the first time, God could feel the rain upon His face and the lashes of a Roman torturers whip.
- Becoming obedient to the point of death – this one-of-a-kind God-Man had the potential to die. The Spirit couldn’t die, but the Man could die.
- Even death on a cross – Jesus didn’t die of old age, or defending His family from invaders. He was falsely accused, beaten, tortured and crucified on a piece of wood used for criminals. Jesus lived a life totally opposite to that of a criminal. He didn’t take, He always gave. As a reward for all that He gave, He was given brutality and death at the hands of God haters.
The prayer Jesus prayed was for Himself, not that He was capable of giving into temptation, but that temptation wouldn’t come into His prayer life. It was a prayer that says, “The suffering is great, yet not my will but Yours be done.”
Jesus prayers were answered.
The Bible tells us that Jesus prayers were answered (even an angel appeared and strengthened Him).
In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. NASB95
“…and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” NIV
He was heard because He submitted Himself, yet there was more pain to come. Prayer doesn’t alleviate pain, but gives us the peace to endure pain.
The Word of God tells us in Hebrews 12:2 that we should be…
2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus experienced pain, but at the end of that pain, there was joy.
What was the joy?
Better yet, WHO was the joy?
When Jesus died on the cross, He closed the distance between God and us by dealing with the obstacle of Sin. At the cross, Jesus paid the price for sin and made it now possible for us to enter into a right relationship with God.
His resurrection proved that the work of the Cross was real and proved that those who follow Jesus would also have eternal life.
He sent us His Holy Spirit to empower us to live a life like He led. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, now lives in us.
We are the joy!
Are you experiencing suffering? I know it’s hard and sometimes the answers we give doesn’t really give us the peace we need.
If you are suffering, then turn to Jesus and spend time praying, reading God’s Word and hanging out with others who believe the same way you do. Suffering is terrible and we don’t always have clear answers, but the Word does say this in Philippians 4:4-7 :
4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
When you are suffering, rejoice in the Lord, always, gather with other believers that care about you and then, deal with your anxiety by praying, interceding for others and giving thanks to God.
In those actions you can find peace that only God can give you. Other people can’t understand how you could have peace in your suffering, but you get it. That peace will guard your heart from the attacks of the enemies and preserve your mind because your mind is living—in Jesus!