Dealing With Temptation

Gardens in the Bible our often seen to be dangerous places. In the very first chapter of the Bible we are told that God made a garden and it was perfect. He put Adam and Eve in it and He told them that they could eat of any of the fruit He put in it except for the fruit of one tree he called, The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Unable to withstand the temptation, and they disobeyed God and as a result physical and spiritual death came upon the human race. In a sense God has also placed us in a garden, what I mean by that there are temptations growing in the centre of our own personal situations also. How do you master temptation it, or just as important how do you stop it creeping up and taking you by surprise, and then mastering you. How is it that so many Christians are overtaken by temptation before they even noticed it creeping up on them? There is another garden in the bible and that Garden was called Gethsemane and what happened there is important because it stands as an illustration of how potentially we can all be overcome by temptation.

The first part of the passage begins with Jesus predicting something when He says; “You will all fall away”. Then he quotes a passage from (Zac 13:9), which says, when the shepherd is struck down the sheep are scattered. Jesus before he has even been arrested states He is going to be deserted, He is going to die and be resurrected again, but He will meet up with them again. So, even though they fall away and desert Him those actions will not end His relationship with them. He is telling them there can still be a reunion even after you mess up or fall away. Peter reply to Jesus is to say what you just said applies to everyone apart from him. His response is to say, ‘Even if I had to die with you, I will never disown you Peter is saying look Lord, that may be true of the others, but I am the exception to the rule.

The second part of the passage that takes us into the Garden of Gethsemane. From there Jesus selects Peter, James and John, and says, “you come with me” and he goes deeper into the garden among the olive trees and He says to them, “Stay here and keep watch.” We are then told he goes off to pray and becomes, “deeply distressed” to the point where and says,  ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death .

What is it that troubles Him? What makes Him deeply distressed? He is overwhelmed by something He refers to as “this Cup”. The expression “this cup” was used in the Old Testament (Jer 25) to describe the judgement cup of God on sin. Jesus fully understands what He must face. He is going to take upon Himself our sin, the sin of the world, so that the judgement of God might fall upon our sin, that he is bearing, so that we might walk free. Not just our individual sin, but the sin of every single human being who has ever walked this planet. A preacher I heard once said it this way, “Jesus choose to go to hell for you rather than go to heaven without you”. He choose to be separated from God, so we wouldn’t have to be.

The text continues; 37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping (By the way this is the same Peter who just a moment ago said, “I would die for you. Willing to die for the Lord, one minute, but couldn’t even stay awake and pray and watch out for Him. How many Christians are willing to die for the Lord on Sunday morning, but “Spiritually fall asleep” Monday to Saturday”. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” indeed. It was important that they did not fall asleep because the next verse tells us what happened next.

43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him.

It was customary for a student to greet a teacher or a Rabbi with a kiss, so no one who have interpreted this as anything unusual. However, on this occasion, it serves as a single to the authorities as to which one is Jesus. So, Judas betrays the Lord with a kiss How do the disciple gets on now, will they stand firm and remain loyal?

 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.

By verse 50 every one of them had deserted him, just as He has said in verse 27 ‘“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”  That’s’ why I tied these passages together. It starts with a prediction and ends with its fulfilment. But in the middle of these events Jesus entreats them to pray, in order that, the might not fall into temptation and fall away. What this tells me, if you want to avoid succumbing to temptation, then pray before temptation appears. Pray as a way of warding off temptation. They didn’t pray when they should have, and they fell away. Instead of overcoming temptation, they were overcome by temptation. The way to overcome temptation is of through prayer. When the moment of testing for Jesus came He prayed and submitted to the will of God. Peter slept through what should have been a prayer time and because of that rather than endure the test, he failed. Jesus when facing an emotional crisis, prayed, and having prayed He was able to submit to the will of God. Peter didn’t pray, and he fell, and then he fled. Will you pray, so that you can stand up to temptation and so that you don’t fall when temptation comes?

The great lesson of this passage is wake up and pray before the temptation arises. Remember the Lord Prayer, “lead us not into temptation”. He is telling us to pray about temptation before it strikes, before we fall and mess things up. Don’t wait until your standing in the middle of the consequences of a wrong action before you start to pray.

Three ministers were talking about the appropriate position one should take for prayer. As they were talking a telephone repairman was working in the background repairing the church manse telephone system. One said I hold my hands together and point them upward. The second said real prayer should be conducted on your knees. The third said that they were both wrong, the only correct position for prayer was flat out face down on the floor. By this time the phone repairman just couldn’t keep quiet any longer and he said this. I discovered that the most powerful prayer I ever made was one I prayed whilst dangling upside down by me heals from a telephone pole 40 feet above the ground. Now I pray every day before I go up the ladder.

Hear me and hear me well if you find yourself spiritually hanging upside down 40 feet above the ground, then it’s definitely time to pray. However, in future resolve to always pray before you go up the ladder.

Let’s pray now.