Facing Temptation with Jesus: Luke 22:39-46

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Following the meal Jesus eats with His disciples, the eleven remaining disciples have a little bit of time alone with Jesus while Judas Iscariot is off getting the soldiers and mob to arrest Jesus. While John’s gospel describes in detail what Jesus shares with the disciples during their trip to the garden, the remaining gospels focus on what Jesus does after they have arrived at Gethsemane.

Let’s read our passage and discover what we can learn from what Luke tells us happened. Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 22, and we will read from the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 39, Luke tells us that:

39 Jesus left the city and went, as he usually did, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples went with him. 40 When he arrived at the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

41 Then he went off from them about the distance of a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed. 42 “Father,” he said, “if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will, however, but your will be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 In great anguish he prayed even more fervently; his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

45 Rising from his prayer, he went back to the disciples and found them asleep, worn out by their grief. 46 He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

As we read this passage from Luke, several things jumped out at me. The first thing is how passionately and fervently Jesus prayed. Verse 44 describes Jesus’ sweat was “like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Some people point to this detail and say Jesus was literally sweating blood or that blood was mixing with His sweat. While this sounds crazy, this is actually something that is possible and has been documented on a number of occasions. I don’t remember what this is called, but if I did, I doubt I’d be able to pronounce the word correctly.

Another way I can understand this description of Jesus’ sweat that only Luke includes is that Jesus was sweating so profusely that it was dripping off Him like blood might drip out of a wound.

However, whichever way we want to view this small detail that sounds crazy, this detail isn’t very significant in the big picture of this passage.

Another big detail that I see in this passage reflects a big theme we looked at last week about persisting within God’s will. Looking closely at Jesus’ prayer reveals the powerful truth that Jesus was willing to follow God’s will even through what is likely the worst abuse and death imaginable. Jesus prayed in verse 42, “Father, if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will, however, but your will be done.

Jesus’ prayer to God reflects how we are challenged to pray. When we come before God in prayer, it is worthwhile to bring our requests to Him. However, we also are challenged to frame our requests as being less important or significant that His will. While we might try to push forward in our own strength what we believe to be God’s will, our timing and our perception doesn’t always mirror God’s.

Jesus prayed a prayer with a request for help, but He also prayed that He would remain firmly within God’s will for His life – even if that meant that He would face the cross the following day. Jesus’ prayer here in the garden is a powerful example for us when we decide to go before God in prayer. Jesus’ prayer teaches us how to bring our requests to God while also praying that we stay within God’s will for our own lives.

Speaking of prayer, this leads us to what might be the biggest truth and challenge I see tucked within this event. In verse 40, prior to Jesus walking away from the group to be alone to pray, He tells the group of disciples to “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.

This is powerful when we look closely at it. Of all the nights these disciples would face, and of all the nights in the history of the world, this night was likely one of the darkest. While the following night would appear to be a victory for Satan with Jesus in the tomb, the night before the cross was filled with more temptation directed towards Jesus and all those closest to Him than we likely could imagine.

Leading into this night filled with temptation, Jesus challenges His closest disciples to pray for strength to avoid temptation. While it is difficult to know whether all His followers heeded His words or not, we do know that the two big predictions Jesus made about that night came true. Peter ultimately denied Jesus even though he strongly denied Jesus’ suggestion about what would happen. Also, all the disciples scatter and leave Jesus to be arrested as the scripture predicted would happen.

Aside from these two fulfilled predictions, I suspect that these disciples did ultimately pray for strength to avoid temptation and they received help as an answer to their prayers. None of the disciples aside from Judas Iscariot the betrayer was ultimately lost from this group, and Judas Iscariot was only truly lost because he took his own life. I suspect that Judas Iscariot could have been forgiven if he had first forgiven himself, humbly repented before God in prayer, and not taken such drastic measures as he did. Suicide is sometimes referred to as the permanent solution to a temporary problem, and if given enough time, the problem faced is always less than the solution suicide provides.

In this event, we discover that at the darkest points in history, our prayers should be for help to avoid temptation. At the darkest parts of our lives, we are the most prone to falling into temptation and we should focus more intently on prayer for God’s help and guidance. I believe that when we come before God asking for help to stay away from sin and for help withstanding temptation, He is more than happy to double, triple, or in some other way multiply our own power to resist temptation.

I doubt God puts forth much effort to help us resist sin if we are only half-hearted in our request. However, if we are sincerely committed to resisting sin, I believe God is more than happy to step in and help when we ask Him for help and to fill in any gaps in our strength that might exist. With God’s help, we can have a willpower that is stronger than we might expect or realize!

When our lives are hard and when times are dark, lean into God and ask Him for help resisting temptation! I know that when we claim this prayer, God is more than happy to step in and walk with us along the path He has called us to walk!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, continue to seek God first in your heart, in your mind, and in your life. When things get tough and times are challenging, lean into God asking for strength to keep moving forward with Him!

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to grow a strong personal foundation. While praying and studying with others is beneficial, don’t neglect your personal prayer and study life. Through personal prayer and study, discover God’s truth for your life and open your heart to Him!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Luke – Episode 46: On the night Jesus was arrested, He leaves the disciples with a challenge before He goes off to pray. Discover how this challenge is powerful and how we can claim it in our lives today!

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