Watch and Pray
Lu 22:39 Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him.
40 When He came to the place, He said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation."
41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and prayed,
42 saying, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done."
43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.
44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
45 When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow.
46 Then He said to them, "Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation."
As we press on into the commemoration of holy week. I think it’s important that we reflect on all that takes place on any particular day of our Lord’s passion. I think it’s important to try and grasp the details. What took place on this day, we call Maundy Thursday?
I have chosen just a small portion of Luke’s account for the message this evening, but in no way do I want us to forget the rest of the night. It was our Lord’s last night before His crucifixon and there was a flurry of activity and teaching that needed to be taken care of.
It was on this night that the Lord gave the disciples an inkling of things to come in His dissertation recorded in the gospel of John, beginning at chapter 13 and ending at chapter 16. We could study that portion alone and learn much concerning forgiveness, service, love for one another, the reality of heaven, and the work of the Holy Spirit.
He talked about abiding in Him, persecution, and in chapter 17 we have the great priestly prayer that he prayed for His disciples then and now!
He talked of His betrayal by Judas, the denial of Peter. He washed the disciples feet, thereby giving us an example of servitude and a picture of confession and forgiveness needed on a daily basis after our initial washing and regeneration at our baptism.
There were arguments amongst the disciples about who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom. There was the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the arrest, and the time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Although we call this “mandate” Thursday because of the mandate to love one another....it was not the only mandate given to his disciples that evening. We also have the mandate given concerning the Lord’s Supper, “This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
And we have the mandate that we want to talk about tonight in our text, given to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
How important is this mandate? Well, according to our text, it’s the first thing He told His disciples upon entering the Garden, and the last thing He said before His arrest.
Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus admonished the disciples to “watch and pray.”
We know from Matthew’s account that Jesus prayed three times in the Garden, asking that this cup of suffering be taken from Him. It was between these rounds of prayer that He gave them the admonition to “watch and pray.”
So this mandate was given, before, during, and after His time of prayer in the Garden......kind of makes you realize that this was maybe important stuff for His followers wouldn’t you say? We need to know what it means to watch and pray! We need to understand the importance of watching and praying as it concerns our life on this earth as a Christian.
All three admonitions to pray were accompanied by the warning, “lest you enter into temptation.”
So we know the reason for watching and praying. It is to keep ourselves from “entering into temptation.” The idea of temptation is to solicit for the purpose of entangling in sin. Now how many know that temptation seldom comes to your door dressed as the grim reaper?
No! Temptation comes dressed as a seductress. She is subtle, alluring. In Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion” the devil was brilliantly portrayed as a seductive woman.
Temptation appears at first to be harmless, but once she leads you to enter in, and she gets her tentacles around you, it is extremely difficult to extract yourself. The best defense is to not enter into her realm in the first place. Therefore we should “watch and pray.”
Temptation almost always shows up as an easier way out of a given situation. How thankful we can be that our Lord was tempted in every manner that we ourselves are tempted. He has seen the “easy way” and resisted it, found victory over it!
Heb 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
I think of the times that He may have thought about easier paths! First of all in the wilderness with the three temptations of Satan. Wouldn’t it have been easier to turn rocks into bread rather than go hungry? Wouldn’t it be easier to make the point about being a supernatural person by jumping off the top of the temple and landing safely on the ground? And why not rule the kingdoms of the world now rather than go through the agony of the cross?
I think of the time early in His ministry that He had a successful run in Capernaum. Demons cast out, healings, and people who respected His teaching. It might have been tempting to stay there for the rest of His ministry. A place where He was highly respected.
What did He do? He got up early in the morning and prayed and then when the others found Him, He said, “We got to get out of this place. We have to go to the next towns!
After He fed the 5,000 the people were ready to make Him king, but we are told He went away to pray. Why? Because another easier way was being presented to Him. And of course in the Garden of Gethsemane, clearly the idea of something easier than the cross was brought up.
Do you see the example he was giving us? Watch out for shortcuts! Watch out for easier ways. Be alert for these things! God is calling you to do His will by obeying His Word and believing His promises. He is not calling you to the “easier ways”
The devil is there, always putting forth seemingly harmless and justifiable alternatives. Alternatives that appear to be much easier, but beware! Pr 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
Understand the lesson of Gethsemane for you and me. It’s found in 1 Cor 10:13, “There isn’t any temptation that you have experienced which is unusual for humans. God, who faithfully keeps His promises, will not allow you to be tempted beyond your power to resist. But when you are tempted, He will also give you the ability to endure the temptation as your way of escape.”
There was no “easier” way for Jesus. But God gave His Son the ability to endure.....to endure even the cross. And please note what happened in the garden when Jesus resolved to do it God’s way.
“Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven strengthening Him.”
My brothers and sisters. Where is temptation showing up in your life? Where have easier paths been shown to you or where are they being shown to you now? Taking the path of least resistance is a trap. Know that! Believe that.
Be alert! Watch for those battlegrounds that involve a decision between doing it God’s way or the easier way. They present themselves almost every single day. When you see them coming, get on your knees and ask God for His help and His strength to resist and flee from them.
Watch and pray. It’s what Jesus did in His hour of need and it’s what we should do too.
Oh Lord, it would be so much easier to give in to my boyfriends sexual demands. Oh Lord it would be so much easier to just lie on my taxes. Oh Lord it would be so much easier to live with this person rather than marry them. Oh Lord it would be so much easier to end this marriage. Oh Lord it would be so much easier to hate this person rather than forgive.
Watch my friend! Pray my friend! The Spirit of God who is residing in you is willing to do it God’s way, but your flesh is weak....your flesh is inclined to do it the easy way. Ask God for the help you need to overrule your flesh....lest you enter into temptation.
And remember for those times that you have succumbed....you are not condemned. You have the opportunity to get on your knees and ask for forgiveness and receive full pardon. And that pardon is yours because Jesus did not take the easy way out.
The challenge that He left for His disciples and us in the Garden was to watch and pray so that we would avoid the snarl of sin in the first place. He did that because He loves us and doesn’t want us hurt by sin. He not only loved us so much that He died for our sins, but he loved us enough to try and keep us from the harmful effects of sin as well. Watch and pray beloved....lest you enter into temptation.