This is the traditional day which the church recognizes as Palm Sunday, and through next Lord’s Day we remember the sufferings, the death, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was so appropriate that we sung the hymn that we just sung written by Phillip Bliss. “Man of Sorrows, what a name for the son of God who came, ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah, what a savior. Man of Sorrows, a name that Phillip Bliss borrowed from the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah chapter 53 in verse 3 calls the Lord Jesus a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief who bore our sorrows and carried our griefs.
In fact, that great fifty-third chapter of Isaiah describes the suffering of Jesus Christ. It uses words like this: despised, rejected, esteemed not, stricken, smitten, afflicted, wounded, bruised, scourged, oppressed, slaughtered, imprisoned, judged, and cut off or killed. As we come to this Passion Week and remember the Lord Jesus’ death for us, obviously our focus in on, first of all, His suffering. In fact, I suppose if there was anything that dominated His entire life it was suffering. Grief had been His constant companion all through His life. Sin, disease, unbelief, doubt, disobedience, ignorance, rejection were all around Him all through His life and ministry.
They all gave our Lord sorrow upon sorrow, but no sorrow previously felt can match the pain of this last week. And as we enter into an understanding of the sufferings of Christ we have to begin in the Garden of Gethsemane. And so I encourage you to turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 26. Matthew 26. Before Jesus came to the cross, He came to the garden. And we get a better understanding of His suffering on the cross by understanding His suffering in the garden.
When we understand His suffering in the garden we get a deep insight into how painful the cross would be. We get a great insight into how greatly He loved the Father, how devoted He was to the Father’s will, how greatly He and the Father loved sinners. And we also learn from Him how to face the profoundest temptation ourselves and triumph as He did. This particular passage, this description of Jesus in the garden surpasses comprehension, frankly. It lets us into a deeper sorrow than we can see in Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem, a deeper sorrow than we see in His tears shed at the grave of Lazarus.
Here as He faces the cross we find Him at the deepest point of sorrow in His life to this point. This is sacred ground. It is also very personal, very intimate, and very private. The disciples weren’t even there, although they were nearby. We wouldn’t know anything about this if Jesus hadn’t given it to the writers of the gospel record. Here is a profound look at the suffering savior, and as such a profound look at Jesus’ humanity. We say much, and rightly so, about His deity. We say less about His humanity.
But here are the deepest most profound insights into the humanity of Jesus given anywhere. Here we see Him, who in all points is tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Here we see Him being equipped to be a merciful high priest who can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities. Here we see Him as man, suffering the agony of temptation, and yet triumphant in His trust in God. He shows us here how to battle Satan and trust God at the same time.
It is sad really, extremely sad, that most Christians know more about the details of the storylines of soap operas than the details of the life of their savior, that Christians know more about sports statistics or stock market prices or fashions or movies or television programs or books or music or cars or boats or whatever than they do about their Lord. And so I want you to go with me into the depth of His suffering a bit. I want you to understand some things that require more than a passing thought. Paul prayed “that I may know him.” Said, “I am determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ,” and plunged himself into the depths of trying to comprehend his great savior. This is a challenge.
On April 12th of 1885 Charles Spurgeon preached an eloquent sermon on the man Christ Jesus. In it he called for a consideration of all the truth about our Lord, particularly that about His humanity. He said this, “It will not be enough for you to hear, or read;” – of Christ – “you must do your own thinking, and consider your Lord for yourselves. The wine is not made by gathering the clusters, but by treading the grapes in the wine-vat: under pressure the red juice leaps forth. Not the truth as you read it, but the truth as you meditate upon it, will be a blessing to you. Shut yourself up with Jesus if you would know Him.
But he also admitted in that same sermon, “I am never more vexed with myself than when I have done my very best to extol His dear name. What is it but holding a candle to the sun? Beloved, I cannot speak as I would of Him; the blaze of the sun blinds me.” I understand what Spurgeon was saying. He wanted to grasp the depth of Christ and pass it on. And when he had done his best it fell far short. But in this passage, we’ll make some endeavor to look deeply into the heart of our Savior.
Let’s look at verse 36. “Then Jesus came with them” – the disciples – “to a place called Gethsemane” – that means olive press – “and said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.’ And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’
“And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done.’ And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.
“And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!’”
In this passage, we will as much as is possible come to understand something of the suffering of Christ. We will also understand the path of victory over temptation, a path which we ourselves so desperately need to know. The scene is Gethsemane. Gethsemane is a garden on the Mount of Olives. Jesus and His disciples have finished the Last Supper, the Passover. And in verse 30 they sung a hymn and after that final hymn they went out to the Mount of Olives. On that mount covered with olive trees – still some there today – they went to a garden called Olive Press or Gethsemane; obviously a place where olives were pressed into olive oil, used in so many ways. This is the scene of this great struggle.
The Jewish people lived inside the city wall for the most part, but had their gardens on the hillsides around the city. That’s where they went and planted whatever they wanted for food and for sale. And it was in such a garden on the slope of the Mount of Olives that Jesus went with His disciples after the final hymn of the Last Supper. Upon reaching the place called Gethsemane He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray,” and probably gestured in whatever direction He was going. “Wait for me while I go and pray.” And what were they to do while waiting?
Well they could have occupied themselves very well, back in verse 31, on the way to the Mount of Olives, Jesus had said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night.” You are all going to defect. You are all going to succumb to fear. You are all going to fall to temptation.” And the Scripture from Zachariah 13:7, which is written, “I will strike down the shepherd and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered,” will come to pass. Having heard that warning they would have been well to spend this time praying, wouldn’t they? Praying that they not fail, praying that God would give them strength to triumph in temptation.
But they were smug and self-confident. So self-confident that Peter in verse 33 responds to that prediction by saying, “Even though all may fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” He thought more highly of himself than he ought to have thought. Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night before a cock crows,” – which is of course announcing the dawn – “you shall deny me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with you I will not deny you.” All the disciples said the same thing too. They meant well. They meant well, they had good intentions. They loved their Lord, but they were not capable in their own strength to stand the temptation they were about to face. They would have done well to have been prostrate in prayer for strength.
So Jesus said, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Verse 37, “And He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee,” – who of course are James and John. He took them along, why, because they were the leaders. They were the leaders. They were also His most intimate friends. He wanted them with Him for support, for their intercession on His behalf, and also so that they could see His spiritual struggle and report it to the rest. The lesson was to be a very direct lesson. They were going to see how He faced temptation, how He dealt with it. And so He took them into this His darkest hour.
Now as we watch what happens unfold, I want to hang our thoughts on several words. The first word is sorrow. The first thing we see is sorrow. No sooner is the joy of the Passover evening ended, the sweetness of a final hymn sung, they leave the upper room, they go out the eastern wall of the city of Jerusalem, down the slope to the Valley of Kedron, and start up the slope of the Mount of Olives. And all of the sudden, the anticipation of Calvary begins to weigh heavy upon the Lord. And in verse 37, He has deposited nine of the disciples – eight, actually, since Judas is gone. He is gathering the crowd for money who will come and take Jesus. Eight remain; He takes three with Him.
And it says in verse 37 as they go, separating deeper into this Mount of Olives, olive grove, from the rest, He began “to be grieved and distressed.” Sorrow. Our Lord begins to enter deep anguish. This is anguish related to the cross primarily. There were lots of things to cause Him sorrow. Rightly Isaiah calls Him a man of sorrows. All through His life things caused Him sorrow, but now it is all mounting to culminate and His soul is totally repulsed by the thought of going to the cross. And it isn’t because He hates the thought of physical pain. It is because He hates the thought of the wrath of God being poured on Him. The horror of that, of alienation and separation from One to whom He is eternally linked as God of very God. He hates the thought of having His absolute sinlessness scarred as it were by the wrath of God as He bears the weight of punishment for all who will ever believe.
The upper room fellowship is over, the triumphant moments of that Lord’s Table are done and now He begins to feel the weight of the cross before it’s ever put on His back. The cross looms large, and with it the full blast of judgment for sin and death. He began to be grieved and distressed. Actually depressed, depressed. It means a restless shrinking back from some trouble that can’t be escaped or avoided. It’s a deep sadness here. There’s a desolate loneliness that comes over Him, severe loneliness. Think about all the things that made Him grieve. Think about all the things that might have depressed Him.
The defection of Judas, the altogether lovely, truest friend, lover of souls, gracious master, adorned – adored by angels, guarded by seraphim, hated by this man, Judas. A wretched traitor turns against Him. A human Lucifer fallen from holy privilege. Think about the desertion of the eleven. He was the source of their life. He was the provider of all their resources for all their needs. He was their faithful teacher, loyal friend, forgiving encourager, supporter and will be forsaken by those He forsook. Think about the denial by Peter. The one who was not ashamed to call sinful Peter His friend and His brother and not ashamed to share with Him eternal life and riches, is He to be the object of Peter’s shame? Is He to be the object of Peter’s curse? How depressing to have those you love the most and to whom you give the most turn against you.
And then there was the rejection of the nation Israel. Here is the Lord of the covenant, the king of grace, the source of hope, the bringer of the kingdom who loved Israel and called Himself Israel’s Lord. Here is Israel’s Messiah who came to redeem His people and by them is rejected and murdered. And then He could be depressed by the injustice of men. Here is the prince of truth, the lover of righteousness, the God of equity to be cheated by petty courts and petty bribed judges and witnesses and men whose lies deny Him justice. He could also be depressed by the cursing and the mocking. The One whom angels praise, whom all holy creatures exalt, the One who alone is glorified and adored for His eternal perfection, now to be blasted by the profanity of stupid sinners.
And then there is the depression of the loneliness and the agony of suffering. Here is the eternal companion of God, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Here is the fellow of the holy hosts of heaven, the beloved, the redeemer, the One who is the eternally painless One who will now feel the profound and accumulated pain of the wrath of God from all the sins of all time pushed upon Him. And think of that depressing reality of bearing sin.
The spotless, blameless, pure and holy son of God so deeply pressed with the wrath of God as to literally pay the full penalty for sin. Think of the forsaking of God expressed in the cross by the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The eternal deathless one must die. The unfallen man must pay the price for fallen man. He who had no experience of death, of dying, would taste death for every man. No wonder He was depressed. No wonder He went to the cross with agony.
Edersheim wonderfully says, “He disarmed death by burying its shaft in his own heart.” But that was not easy. Sorrow and deep depression gripped Him as He moved into the darkness of the Mount of Olives. And, folks, this is not theater; this is reality. Jesus Christ is here pre-living the pain He anticipates on the cross, and this alone is suffering enough. One can only imagine what the cross would be like. The suffering here seems more than conceivable, the cross infinitely more than that.
And so, it says “He began to be grieved and distressed.” It gives us the indication that it started and escalated, it increased. The struggle now is a struggle over whether He is willing to go the cross. It is so frightening, it is so fearful, it is so threatening, it is so terrifying that He wants to ask if there’s any way it can be avoided. Maybe the echo of Satan’s temptation from way back in Matthew 4 when he took Him up into the wilderness – the spirit of God took Him up into the wilderness and Satan there tempted Him.
And you remember the gist of Satan’s temptation was you’re the son of God. You’re the son of God, why should you be hungry? You’re the son of God, why should you be rejected? You’re the son of God, why shouldn’t you rule? Grab some satisfaction. You’re entitled to it. That temptation may have come back. Why are you anticipating this pain? Why are you looking at this suffering? You’re the son of God, you don’t deserve this. Satan, as always, wanted to keep Him off the cross, had even tried through the lips of Peter to effect that. You remember Peter said to Jesus, “No you’re not going to go to the cross.” And Jesus said to him, “Get thee behind me Satan.”
The agony is there because He knows what He faces and it is so contrary to His holy soul, and so in verse 38 He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved,” – how deeply? – “to the point of death.” His inner person was so surrounded, the deeply grieved, perilupos, peri, perimeter, surrounding. It means to be overwhelmed with sorrow, to be surrounded by sadness, to be engulfed with distress. Very strong word. I am literally engulfed in grief. How serious is it? Enough to kill me, enough to kill me. They threatened His life.
Now on the cross He didn’t die from the nails. He didn’t die from the crown of thorns on His head. He didn’t die from the lashing on His back. He didn’t die from the spear in His side, He was already dead. What did He die from? He didn’t die from long hours and days of asphyxiation, although that’s the way crucified victims eventually died. He died very fast for a crucified victim, very fast. Surely, He died of an exploded heart because of the stress, of the agony of the cross. The anguish, even here before He gets there. is severe enough to threaten His life. “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death.”
Sorrow grips the scene and it turns then to a second word, “supplication,” verse 39. Before we read that, verse 38 at the end, “Remain here, keep watch with me.” You stay here and I’ll go a little further. Verse 39, “He went a little beyond them and fell on His face and prayed.” He wanted total seclusion, He wanted some privacy. He wanted to be alone; His heart is at the breaking point. He could literally die of sorrow, die of anguish if not sustained by God. He wants some solitude, a more private place, maybe shaded from the moonlight, away from any intrusion where He can be with the Father. So He says, “Stay here and keep watch with me.” Stay awake. Watch so that no one comes. Be alert.
He knew who was coming by the way, Judas and the troops from Fort Antonio and the chief priests and the leaders. So “He says, ‘Watch with me,’ went a little beyond them, fell on His face and prayed. A little beyond? Luke says a stone’s throw. How far can you throw a stone? Thirty yards? Not far. And now He is alone. His grief grows. His sorrow increases, He falls prostrate in pleading anguish before God asking for strength. He literally fell on His face and prayed and His prayer is, “My Father if it possible let this cup pass from me.”
What is He saying? It says in Luke that He kneeled, and if you put the two together He kneeled and then He fell flat, prostrate, and all His pain turns to one request, “My Father,” – Mark says He added Abba, intimacy – “if it is possible,” if there is another way, I don’t think He’s trying to say let’s not redeem sinners. I don’t think He’s trying to say Father I take it back, I don’t want to do my part in this covenant. I think He’s simply saying is there any other way? Does it have to be this? He’s not asking to avoid the redemptive work. He’s just asking if there’s another way to accomplish it. If it is possible doesn’t mean in the sense of power, but if it is possible in the sense of the plan. Is there any other way? Any other way? If there is, “let this cup pass from me.”
This cup is very important. It’s symbolic of suffering. Jesus in John 18:11, Jesus in Matthew 20 said “There’s a cup and I have to drink it.” The cup seems always to be tied to divine wrath. You find that back in the Old Testament. You find it, as well, in the New Testament. It is the cup of wrath and it represents the fury of God over sin. It represents the punishment of God against sin. And He is saying this is a cup I don’t want to drink, the cup of wrath. As I have told you before, on the cross Christ did not become a sinner, but on the cross He drank the cup of God’s full wrath against all sinners.
He knew that He had come to redeem sinners, He knew that. That’s why He came, to seek and to save those that are lost. But the thought of drinking the cup of God’s wrath was more than He could bear. In John 12:27 He said, “Now my soul has become troubled and what shall I say, Father save me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” God am I asking you to deliver me from this hour of redemption? No. This is why I came, but is there any other way to do it? And then His response, wonderful response, the response that, of course, you knew would be His, “Yet not as I will, but as thou will.”
There’s the commitment. He came to do the Father’s will and if this was it, He would do it. He would never set aside the Father’s will. If there’s no other way, I’ll do it. Complete and perfect obedience. At this very point, Luke 22:44 tells us “He began to sweat great drops of blood.” The text says His sweat was like thrombos, from which we get thrombosis of blood. What a struggle. Sorrow, solitary prostrate prayer, near death, asking for deliverance, sweat like blood. I understand that when extreme anguish is experienced the resulting strain can cause subcutaneous capillaries to dilate to a great extent and even burst, so that in the vicinity of sweat glands blood and sweat would be exuded together. This can happen over the body and give a red color to the beads of sweat as they roll down.
Unbelievable anguish. Luke immediately says – after he says that He was sweating great drops of blood he says, “There appeared an angel unto him from heaven to strengthen him.” God had to intervene at that moment to keep Him alive, the agony was so profound. What anguish! And this for us who treat it so lightly, who know more about soap operas than His suffering. And so He prayed. After this prayer He returned to the three disciples.
According to verse 40, “He came to the disciples and found them sleeping.” So according to verse 42, “He went away again a second time and prayed saying, ‘My Father is this cannot pass away unless I drink it, thy will be done.” Now He’s getting more resolved. His first prayer was “Let it pass.” His second one was “if it can’t pass unless I drink it, Thy will be done.’” I can’t imagine what the pain of the actual sin bearing might be when this pain seems so far beyond comprehension and the pain of the cross was infinitely more.
Well, He came back after the second time and according to verse 43 He found them sleeping again. So verse 44 says, “He left them again, went away and prayed a third time saying the same thing once more.” Sometimes people will say to me well how many times do you need to pray? I mean doesn’t God hear you the first time? That’s not the issue. Of course He does. The issue here is not whether God hears you. The issue here is the passion of the heart, the passion of the heart. He cannot restrain Himself from pleading. The war, the battle of temptation is going on.
He does not want to be separated from God. He does not want to feel the full fury of the wrath of God poured out upon Him. The thought of it almost kills Him. His whole circulatory system is threatened, His life is threatened. But in the end, He always comes back to “Thy will be done,” no matter how intense and frighteningly terrifying the struggle might be. What great insight this is. What was it like when He was up there praying those three times? It tells us what He said, but what was the – what was His demeanor when He said it? Oh, I’m so grateful that Hebrews 5 tells us. The Holy Spirit revealed to the writer of Hebrews the demeanor of Jesus when He was praying these three times.
Hebrews 5:7, “In the days of his flesh,” – that is when He was incarnate – “he offered up both prayers and supplications,” – and here’s His demeanor – “with loud crying and tears to the one able to save him from death.” And He was heard because of His piety, because of His holiness. He offered up prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears. He was – he was crying loudly. He was yelling in agonizing tears. Crying, sounds of bitter weeping. The poet says, “Hark, what sounds of bitter weeping from you lonesome garden sweep/’Tis the Lord his vigil keeping while his followers sink in sleep/Ah, my soul he loveth thee, yes he gave his life for me.”
As I said, you see His profound love for the Father and willingness to do His will. You see His profound love for unworthy sinners as He anticipates what He will suffer and suffers in the anticipation for them. Unrelenting agony. Resolution to keep the will of God. Waves of Satanic attack. Remember in the first temptation, Satan came to Him three times. This seems to bear the same mark, three times.
From sorrow to supplication we come to a third word that helps us to see into this tremendous account, it’s the word, “sleep.” It characterizes not Jesus this time, but the disciples. Verse 40, “He came to the disciples and found them sleeping and said to Peter, ‘So you men couldn’t keep watch with me for one hour?’” Their struggle wasn’t anything like His. They didn’t even have the strength to stay awake. Well I know it’s natural to sleep after midnight and it was after midnight, especially after a very busy, busy hectic week, unbelievable week. Compounded by a huge meal, the Passover, and then a long hard walk up a hill. They were asleep. Luke adds something though, that tells us even more about their sleep. Luke adds, “They were asleep for sorrow.” You know what that means? They cried themselves to sleep.
Whatever energy was left, they spent on tears and weeping. Why? Everything was going wrong. All their dreams of a kingdom were unraveling. He was going to die and they were going to be scattered and everything was coming apart. And they had been told about a betrayer and Judas was gone and the sadness was profound. They – they slept through other events, like the transfiguration, which if there was anything you would want to stay awake for that would be it. But here their sleep was induced even more by their weeping.
Peter, you and the rest couldn’t keep watch with me for one hour? Verse 43, “After the second time of prayer He came back and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So He went back and prayed again saying the same thing.” Verse 45, He comes back after His third time of prayer, “came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?’” That’s the issue. At the crisis moment in life, are you sleeping? What did I tell you two – you three? I said stay awake, watch with me.
Watch with me so when I come back there’s a friend here, somebody to sympathize, somebody who cares, somebody that I can talk to and tell about my communion with the Father. Stay awake, this is crisis time. Satan is active, demons are active. Never have they been more active than they are right now as we get close to the redemptive work of the cross. All hell is geared. You better be awake, you cannot be indifferent to me, can you? You cannot be indifferent to my struggle, indifferent to your own struggle, the impending defection. But they were. In their sorrow and self-pity and smugness and self-confidence, they just collapsed.
In all spiritual battles, beloved, the victory goes to the vigilant, not the sleepers. How many times does the battle say, “Wake up.” You gotta know what’s going on around you. You have to understand the times and the seasons and the movements of the enemy and the issues. You have to understand where you are and what’s going on around you. Keep your eyes open. You cannot be either self-confident or unprepared for the subtleties and the crafty schemes of Satan. But the disciples were. They should have been praying, but they were sleeping. And when temptation came, they fell. They weren’t ready.
Sorrow, supplication, sleep, and then a final word, a triumphant word, “strength” takes us to the great conclusion. They were weak, but not Him, He was strong. Verse 45, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold,” – and He probably said that emphatically and roused them out of whatever remaining sleep they were still in – “Behold, the hour is at hand and the son of man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.” It is present tense, it’s happening right now. And you know what we know right here? He has won the victory.
He has defeated the fleeing hosts of hell; He stands covered with bloody sweat on His face and dripped over His clothing. He is bloodied but unbowed, the victor courageously ready to face the cross. “Behold,” – He says – “the hour is at hand.” The moment has come. The last temptation is over. The cup was in His hands. He had drunk it and there was no trembling. The son of man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. I think He probably at that very moment looked through the olive trees and saw the flashing of the torches in the hands of the crowd that were coming led by Judas. He may even have seen Judas leading them. The hour is now, this is it?
The son of man is being betrayed, delivered into the hands of sinners. What humiliation, what condescension, what fulfillment? He has committed Himself to the Father’s will, He is facing the cross. He has come through the last temptation with strength and triumph. And in verse 46, “Arise,” get up gentlemen, let’s go. He’s not saying let’s run away. Let’s go toward them, let’s go meet them. The hour of redemption has come. And you remember when He met them they said – they saw Him, He said, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” And He said, “I am He.” And the whole entourage collapsed under His power.
What you see after the temptation from now on is His great power and glory. Let us go forth to meet the advancing enemy. Look, look. The hour is now, the son of man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners, arise, let’s go. Behold the one who betrays me is at hand. Verse 47, “And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, ‘Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him.’ And immediately he went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.” That infamous kiss. Jesus saw it coming and walked right toward it. Strength.
What’s the key to this? What are we trying to learn here? We want to see the power of Christ over Satan. We want to see the power of His love for the Father over His own fears. We want to see the greatness of His love for sinners. All of that is here. But there is a lesson for us here that is basic and profound. We want to learn how He dealt with temptation so we can deal with it. And because of that the heart of this thing is verse 41. Verse 41 is the principal, He said it to the disciples, He says it to us, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
What was Jesus doing up there when He was battling temptation? He was prostrate doing what? Praying. Alert, awake, understanding what was going on and praying with all the passion of His great heart. How do we deal with temptation? In His first temptation in Matthew 4, when Satan was with Him in the wilderness Jesus answered every temptation with a quote from the book of Deuteronomy. And what He tells us there is that it is essential in temptation to know the word of God, right? “Thy word that I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” We must be armed with the word and here He teaches us the other necessary ingredient to battle temptation. One, you need the word, two, you need the power of God and that calls to prayer.
In the first temptation He turned to the word, in the second greater temptation He turns to God in prayer. You want to be victorious? You want to be triumphant in your Christian life? The Lord has let you in on this great lesson. In the private intimate moments of His own struggle with Satan in the wilderness, He showed you need the word of God in your life because you will have those principals engrained in you which lead you toward righteousness.
Secondly, even though you have good intentions, your flesh may – your spirit may be willing, but your flesh is miserably weak. You cannot stand on good intentions. You cannot stand on your own sense of confidence. You throw yourself prostrate before God and cry out for deliverance from the strength of temptation. Intentions aren’t enough. The flesh is too weak. We’re not Jesus Christ. His flesh, of course, His humanness, strengthened in its perfection by the fact that He was God. We are not.
We see it in the disciples. They wanted to do what was right. They didn’t have the strength. That’s how it is with us. You want triumph in temptation, engrain the word of God into your life, keep your eyes open and pray without ceasing. That’s the path. Not complex, but very clear. The Lord in His suffering not only provided redemption, but in His suffering provided a path of triumph which we can walk. The word, watchfulness, prayerfulness. That’s it. No magic. That’s how you deal with sin. Pour the word in. Stay alert. Understand what’s going on around you by way of temptation. Be discerning and fall prostrate before God and cry out for His power. That’s the path to triumph. Then you can rise and walk to face the foe as He did. Let’s pray.
Father it is again such a privilege to be taken into the secret place to see the struggle and the victory that our Savior had. We think of the words of the songwriter, “Oh, what a savior is mine. In Him God’s mercies combine/His love will never decline and He loves me.” All that Jesus did He did for us, to save us because He loved us, because You loved us and do love us.
We’re overwhelmed at such love and grace. Father as we go through this week and are reminded again of the suffering of our Lord, may our hearts be filled with gratitude. A gratitude that demonstrates itself in the way we live, in the way we speak, in the way we think. May we honor the One who went through so much and triumphantly gave His life for us. The one in whose name we pray, our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
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