************ Sermon on Luke 22:40b ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 26, 2000
"Temptation and Prayer in the Garden"
So far in this season of Lent the Gospel writer Luke has identified two different sins the church constantly struggles against. First, he dealt with the problem of betrayal. He tells us about Judas who agreed to betray the Lord because of his greed for money (Lk 22:1-6; cf 21-23). Second, he told us about strife among the other disciples because of their desire for position and authority. To use a modern expression, it was a case of too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.
When we are tempted to fall into these sins – or other sins – what do we do? How do we handle them? How do we handle the temptation the world throws at us every single day? How do we handle the temptation of our very own flesh?
As Christians, says our text, we are not to "fall into temptation." We are not to listen to temptation and be lured into its trap. With temptation all around us, with temptation within and without, how can we avoid falling? How are we, as Christians, to handle temptation?
How do you handle temptation, congregation? Do you meet it head on? Do you boldly confront it? A recent issue of Christianity Today had an article on a pastor with a ministry to prostitutes and alcoholics. In the course of his ministry, he often entered bars and strip-joints. One of his elders is now leading the fight to remove him from the ministry. You see, the temptations became too much: he is on the road to becoming an alcoholic and he regularly slips $10 bills into G-Strings. It is obvious, isn't it, that this is a very foolish way to handle temptation! You don't put matches in front of a pyromaniac, you don't put alcohol in front of an alcoholic, you don't put an open cash box in front of a thief.
How do you handle temptation? What do you do to keep from falling?
Topic: OmniscienceThe fear of getting caught has kept many a person from falling into temptation. However, when temptation strikes and you're inclined to give in because no one seems to be around, remember the words of the little boy. Don't forget, God always sees.
Subtopic: Of God
Title: You Didn't Look Up
The father of a small boy would occasionally sneak into a neighbor's orchard and pluck some of the choicest fruit. He always made sure, however, that "the coast was clear." One day with his son tagging along, after carefully looking in every direction and seeing no one, he crept through the fence. He was just about to help himself when the youngster startled him by crying out, "Dad! Dad! You didn't look UP! You forgot to see if God is watching."
We all know that God is always watching, yet we still fall into temptation and sin. So what can we do? I ask again, how do you handle temptation? What do you do to keep from falling? Jesus tells us and shows us in this morning's Scripture reading the best way to handle temptation.
I Jesus is Tempted and Prays
A After celebrating the Passover and instituting the Lord's Supper, Jesus went with His disciples into the Garden of Gethsemane. Once in the garden, we hear Him praying about a cup: "take this cup from me." What is this cup? What is Jesus praying about?
There are 2 cups in the Old Testament (HOLD UP 2 CUPS). The first is the "cup of blessing" or "cup of salvation" (Ps 16:5; 23:5; 116:13). That's not the one Jesus is praying about. The second is the "the cup of wrath". That's the one Jesus is praying about. Listen to these words from the Old Testament:
(Ps 75:8) In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs.It is obvious that the cup symbolizes the judgment and wrath of God against sin. And, to drink from the cup is to experience the terrible and awesome anger of God. All of us recognize, I hope, that we all should be made to drink deeply from this cup because we have all fallen into temptation and have all sinned against God in thought, in word, and in deed.
(Jer 25:15-16) This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: "Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. (16) When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them." (cf Ezek 23:33)
The Old Testament also makes clear that the cup of God's wrath must be taken and drunk to the very dregs. The cup of wrath must be taken and drained to the bottom.
(Jer 25:15,28) This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: "Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it ...(28) But if they refuse to take the cup from your hand and drink, tell them, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: You must drink it! (cf Ps 75:8).In other words, there is no escape from the wrath of God. Even God's people, Israel, could not escape. We think here of the 40 years when she was forced to wander through the wilderness until all the fathers died. We think here also of the days during the judges when God gave Israel over and over again into the hands of her enemies. We also think here of the 70 years of exile in Babylon. In each and every instance, Israel was forced to drink from the Lord's cup of wrath. She was not allowed to escape the consequences of her sin.
The message of the Old Testament about God's cup of wrath is clear: God's justice cannot be denied and His punishment must be handed out. Nations and peoples cannot escape the judgment of God against sin. The cup of wrath will be drunk by the wicked.
B "Take this cup from me," prays Jesus. How awful! Jesus is being given the cup of God's wrath. He is about to drink deeply from God's anger against wickedness and sin. And He knows what that means: humiliation, pain, suffering, death. He knows He will be cursed on the cross, forsaken by God, abandoned for 3 awful hours, enduring the torments of hell itself. How awful that He will endure this – He, Who from eternity has had an intimate and unbroken communion with the Father. He knows He'll be counted with the transgressors (cf Lk 22:37) and condemned like a criminal.
"Father ... take this cup from me," prays Jesus. In the garden, we see Jesus struggling with the will of God. Jesus is facing temptation. He is being tempted to avoid the path of suffering, to escape the cup of wrath. Scripture tells us about the anguish and pain of the struggle: "his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." It's only natural, isn't it, to struggle, to be tempted, in such a situation? Who among us, if healthy, welcomes suffering and death? Don't forget, Jesus is human just like you and me. And, in every normal person there exists the urge, the instinct, to continue life and to avoid death. Jesus is no exception: He wants to live, He doesn't want to suffer, so He is tempted (cf Heb 2:18; 4:15).
C What does Jesus do as He faces temptation? What does Jesus do as He struggles with the will of God? He prays. We don't know all of what He said, but it must have been intense. The author of Hebrews says,
(Heb 5:7) During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death ...
The custom at the time of Jesus was to pray in a group and to pray standing with eyes raised to heaven. But Jesus, He prays alone and He prays on His knees. This shows us something of His attitude before the Father: meekness, humility, obedience.
This same attitude of meekness, humility, and obedience is evident in the words of Christ's prayer that Luke records for us:
(Lk 22:42) "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." Jesus does not seek to disobey the will of God; rather, He accepts the will of God. His only wish is that God's will is something other, something different, than the way of the cross and the grave.
Jesus is tempted, so He prays. He prays that God's will be changed. He prays that God's will be done. He prays for the power and strength to obey God's will and to drink the cup of God's awful wrath.
D Jesus is tempted, so He prays. And the Father, He hears and He answers the prayer of the Son. Turning again to the book of Hebrews:
(Heb 5:7) During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Of the Gospel writers, only Luke records God's answer to Christ's prayer:
(Lk 22:43) An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. Christ is tempted, He prays, and God sends an angel.
This is not the only time God has done that. After the temptation in the wilderness, God sent angels to minister to Jesus (Mt 4:11). Throughout the Bible, we see angels appearing to God's people during times of testing and tempting. To a scared and fleeing Elijah, an angel appeared and said, "Get up and eat" (1 K 19:5). It was the Angel of the Lord who protected Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they were thrown into Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace (Dan 3:24f). Remember the time Peter was in prison? It was Herod's intention to execute him. During this time of testing, many believers gathered together for prayer. And God, He sent an angel to rescue Peter and to strengthen the saints (Acts 12:1-18).
E Jesus is tempted, He prays, God sends an angel. Do you see what happens next? Jesus gets up to meet those sent to arrest Him. As He so easily does at other times, He could have evaded His enemies (Lk 4:30; 13:31; 19:47-48; 20:19; 20:20-26; 22:2). But He doesn't! He could have called on more than 10,000 angels to help Him (Mt 26:53). But He doesn't! Do you realize what is happening? Jesus is not simply submitting to fate. Not at all. He is not a dumb animal that has no say in its sacrifice. Rather, after struggling with God in prayer, He is ready to enter upon the road to the cross and to follow it to the bitter end. After fighting with temptation in prayer, He actively accepts the will of God and decides to willingly drink the cup of God's wrath.
Why? Why would He do this? Why would this be God's will for Him? God's cup of wrath is reserved for the wickedness and godlessness of men. God's cup of wrath is reserved for the punishment of sin and evil. But Jesus, He is sinless and perfect. So why should He have to consume the cup of God's awful anger? We all know why. The prophet Isaiah tells us:
(Is 53:4-6) Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (5) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (6) We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. It's for us! Jesus willingly drinks the cup of wrath for us. He drinks it in our place, in our stead. It should be us drinking from God's awful cup. Instead, it is Jesus Who drains it to the dregs.
II When Tempted We Should Pray
A Christ is tempted to find a way other than the cross. After He prays about this, He is willing to drink from God's awful cup of wrath. You and I are to take a lesson from Christ here. We are to follow His example. We are to listen to His words. Two times in our short passage, what does Jesus say? He says, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation."
It seems that we have a choice between prayer and temptation. This is not to say that people who pray don't fall into temptation; none of us would be so foolish as to say that. However, if you don't pray, you will not only fall far more quickly, but you will also fall much further. "Pray that you will not fall into temptation."
B Consider Peter for a moment. Peter swears his devotion to the Lord. But Jesus predicts his denial. Peter thought he was ready to be imprisoned for the Lord; he thought he was willing to die for the Lord (Lk 22:31-34). Yet, what happened at the time of testing? We all know what happened – how Peter denied the Lord not one time, not two times, but three times (Lk 22:54-62).
The reason for Peter's fall is clear: HE DID NOT PRAY! He did not follow the example and obey the words of Christ Jesus. Peter did not pray, so he fell into temptation and sin and denied the Lord.
Is there is a sin which keeps recurring in your life? Is there a vice which you find yourself struggling against day after day and year after year? How do you handle it? How do you face temptation? Jesus shows us and Jesus tells us the best approach: on our knees. "Pray that you will not fall into temptation."
C When it comes to temptation, why are we to fall down upon our knees in prayer? There are 2 reasons. First of all, on our own, by our own strength, relying on our own power, we are so weak, so helpless, so frail, so unable to resist. Relying on yourself – like Peter did – you will surely fall.
The second reason why we should pray when we are tempted, is because through prayer we maintain communion and fellowship with the almighty God. Prayer, dear people, puts us in touch with the power and strength of God. One might estimate the weight of the world, tell the height of a mountain, count the stars of heaven, measure the speed of light, and calculate the time of the sun's rising and setting 5 years from now – but one cannot begin to estimate the power of prayer. Why not? Because prayer is as vast as our fathomless God. And prayer is as mighty as our infinite God. Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God's infinite grace and power. All that God is, and all that God has, is at our disposal through prayer.
How do you handle temptation? What do you do to keep from falling? In the garden, Jesus shows us and tells us the best posture: on our knees in prayer.
I would like to conclude this message with the singing of a favorite song. As we sing it, make it your prayer as you struggle with and through temptation. (SING # 544, "Lead Me, Guide Me")
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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