Then Jesus went out and made his way, as he customarily did, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”
He went away from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Yet not my will but yours be done.”
[ Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And in his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.]
When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping, exhausted from grief. So he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you will not fall into temptation!”
Remember a few days ago, how we talked about Jesus praying for Peter? Now, look at what Jesus is doing! He’s praying, but He’s praying for Himself – that He won’t fall into temptation.
We know this because of the Rabbi’s pattern. A rabbi would always train his disciples to do things that he did. They were to be a carbon copy of him. Jesus is a little lax on this because He gathered up such a diverse group of disciples. he knows they are all going to show their own personalities in following Him.
But when He’s instructing them about life, He tells them to do the things He is doing. Right now, He wants the same thing for Himself and the whole group: don’t give in to the current or upcoming temptation.
The other way to read this is that Jesus is telling them to pray, not for anything specific, but by the act of praying, they will not fall into temptation. This is absolutely true, too.
If the Christian life sometimes falls into prayer just for the sake of avoiding temptation, that’s ok. Jesus is our Savior from our past sins and our future sins. If praying and running to Him only to avoid sin is what our relationship looks like, He’ll take it. He can do a lot in a person with a relationship like that.
He did say, after call, “Come to me all who are tired.” Whether tired from self-powered self-righteousness or tired from self-judgment, Jesus receives us.
And this life of prayer is active. It’s not one that we can participate in if we are asleep. These poor guys were exhausted from grief and stress, and contrary to so many calls for rest and relief, Jesus (in this moment anyway) tells us that prayer is better than rest.
One of my roommates quoted an Asbury professor as saying “before you can pray all night, you have to learn to sleep on your knees.” Jesus didn’t condemn these guys for sleeping, He just scolded them, woke them up, and went back to it.
Praying is a big deal, and praying to get out of temptation is real. Even if we stink at it, Jesus gives us a rib jab and says “Come on, keep at it. I’m with you.”
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