And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. When He rose from prayer,He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”Luke 22:39-46
Before we get into the section and pull it apart we need to lift our heads and survey the wider scene before going back to looking at the detail. Remember we are investigating Luke’s account. So we always need to keep before us what Luke is telling us. Yes we need to compare what he has written with what has been recorded in the other gospels. When we do that we will see more clearly Luke’s overall purpose. It is this which helps us keep Luke’s purpose in mind. As I have said to you many times, understanding the Bible is all about investigating the details but keeping them in the context of the overall purposes of each writer. When we do that we make sure we stay on track and don’t get sidelined into some interpretation or conclusion which Luke never meant for us to make.
Remember in Gem 1213 I said the following: I don’t think it is possible for Luke not to have known what the others wrote . . . Luke has deliberately left some pieces of the story out. I listed for you in Gem 1213 the material that Luke omitted from his gospel which the others have picked up on and included for us. It is just as well we have four different versions of the story of Jesus. This gives us a much fuller account than if we had just one gospel. “Through the eyes of many witnesses a matter will be established.”
Luke omits much of this detail and focuses on something else entirely. Take note of Luke’s specific focus. Something he has repeated a number of times. The account of the disciples being split into groups and the fact that Jesus came back to them on two occasions (three times in all He went off to pray) is important detail for us but it is not seemingly important to Luke. Luke wants to communicate something else to us. In so doing he prunes the extraneous material and keeps the main thing the main thing. What is Luke’s main thing? I have told Deeper Biblers “until I am blue in the face” to always take note of the repetition. Did you find the repetition?
- “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (vs 40)
- “get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (vs 46)
Look back further:
- Luke 21:12-19 – You will be persecuted and hated but no harm will come to you
- Luk 21:35-36 – for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.
- Luk 22:28 You are those who have stood by Me in My trials . . .
- Luk 22:31-32 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.
- Luk 22:34 And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.
This has been a continuing refrain through this section of Luke. Here in the garden of Gethsemane he continues the theme. Luke “tops and tails” his account of the prayer in the garden with the theme of temptation. The point of the matter is that Jesus is at the height of His temptation to shrink back from the task before Him, namely the salvation of all mankind. The disciples too are caught in the same vortex assailing them as well. Peter is singled out because he is naturally the leader of the pack. The leader will always suffer a heavier attack than the underlings. It is a principle of warfare. Separate and nullify the commander and you will negate the effectiveness of your enemy.
Things are going to turn ugly very soon. Jesus has been preparing his disciples, his inner circle for that moment. Yet somehow it hasn’t sunken in. Peter, the leader, figures he is immune to the tests. He is strong and there is no way he will succumb. They can throw what they like at him but he will stand strong. Notice all of the above warnings to them are to them (plural). Only once does Jesus single out Peter as an individual. But the message still hasn’t been received. Now he tells them to watch and pray so they won’t enter into temptation; won’t succumb to the test coming on them. All of them are at risk, not just Peter. In fact with Jesus words at the time of His statement to Peter, the inference is that the others are going to fail too. So Peter is exhorted to strengthen them when he has come through his trial. Just like Paul says in 2 Cor 1 we can comfort and minister to others when we have been tested ourselves and have come through it. This encouragement, challenge, rebuke is for all of them: Peter and the others.
Note too by leaving out the comings and goings in the garden Luke makes it clear the rebuke to the disciples regarding their falling asleep is for all of them. No one is excluded. In the Matthew and Mark’s account we could get into a debate as to whether Jesus approached all of the sleeping disciples or just the three – Peter, James and John. He addresses Peter directly but we know from the account that the prominent three were separated from the other by some distance. So did Jesus just talk to Peter, James and John or did He go separately to the other group as well. Luke makes it clear he rebuked all of them for sleeping.
Why are you sleeping? GET UP AND PRAY! Why? So that you can support Me in my greatest hour of need? So that you can stand with Me in the moment that I feel most under attack? In the moment I am in danger of shrinking back from the task before Me? NO! So that YOU (plural) may not enter into temptation. The temptations will come. That is a given. But what are you going to do with them? Stand up and move up as a result or succumb to it? It is our attitude to temptation which determines the outcome. If my tendency is to pull my head in and shrink back from the thing that now comes against me I am never going to advance. Rather I will always be in retreat mode when adversity comes. For many people the moment temptation or persecution comes is the time for them to use reverse and get out of there. Why? Because they have no backbone. Jesus challenge to all of them (and us) is for them to pray for themselves, not for Him.
People often don’t know to pray in the hour that they most need it because they are totally oblivious to the spiritual battle raging around them. They are sleeping when they ought to be fighting or resisting. Don’t let that be you! Wake up and learn to be sensitive to your position and to your vulnerability.
Hardships often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destiny.C S Lewis
An error doesn’t become failure unless you refuse to correct it!Rick Godwin
When you experience times of testing, you’ve two choices: give up, or grow up.Anon
A faith that hasn’t been tested, can’t be trusted.Anon
Your power to resist temptation is proportionate to your submission to God.A R Bernard