Do we always take temptation seriously? We often make light of temptation with very trivial matters. The sweets sitting on the kitchen counter tempt us to break our diet, which we have been working so hard on. At the store we think how tempting it is buy some clothes to add to our wardrobe, after all they are on sale. Spring break will quickly be upon us. It might be tempting to get away for a day or two or the whole week for some much needed relaxation. Yes, there might be temptation in these situations, but they do not affect our spiritual condition.
Do we always recognize how dangerous real temptations can be? When it comes to harm to our spiritual life, we might shrug it off as nothing. We will deal with it as it comes. If the pain does not come immediately, maybe it is no big deal. The worst scenario might be that we grow cold to temptation just forgetting to protect ourselves from the great harm it inflicts.
Temptation is serious. We never want to think of it lightly in any way. We also know where to turn when temptations come. We turn to our Savior who overcame all temptations for us.
Jesus faced his own temptations during his time here on earth. If I asked when he faced those temptations, how would you answer? Many might go to the three famous temptations Satan came to Jesus with them in the desert. We cannot argue with that. Satan brought those temptations to Jesus in order to deter him from his mission in this world.
We cannot forget another time Jesus faced enormous temptations. Our lesson today points us to the great agony Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he would die on the cross.
The passion of Jesus would soon kick into high gear. The triumphant entry on Palm Sunday amid shouts of “Hosanna” would soon turn to the loud cries of “Crucify!” The time with his disciples in the upper room started the somber mood for the evening. Now, with the meal done, Jesus and his disciples traveled to the Garden of Gethsemane. Usually this was a beautiful place. Jesus visited this garden often on much better days.
On this night Jesus did not come to enjoy the beauty of the garden at night. He came to pray. He took Peter, James, and John with him away from the others. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch” (Mark 14:34). Jesus felt the pressure mounting. He knew what awaited him. He knew the pain of the cross. He knew the punishment for the world’s sins would be placed upon him.
Jesus prayed this night earnestly, perhaps more earnestly than he had ever prayed before, “Abba, Father everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:35). The Son approached his heavenly Father with a heartfelt plea. If only there would be another way sin could be atoned for, let it happen! If all the pain and suffering waiting him in the near future could be done away with, let it be so! It would be tempting for Jesus to walk away from it all. He could have called down those legions of angels to protect him from the Jewish police marching closer. He could have went to heaven leaving Pontius Pilate and the Jews in bewilderment at what to do next.
The devil was there with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He whispered in Jesus’ ear, as he prayed, “You don’t need to do this. Walk away. Think of the pain. Think of the ridicule. Let God figure out another plan for the salvation of the world.” The turmoil of Jesus’ soul reached a boiling point.
Jesus would quickly close the door on any temptation trying to enter. Even though he wished for another way to save the world, he put himself under the will of his Father. Jesus would go through with all the pain and suffering if it meant sin would be paid for. There was no other way. Jesus needed to suffer. Jesus needed to face punishment for our sins. Jesus needed to die.
No one asks for temptation to come. We do not wake up in the morning hoping that temptation will come in waves throughout the day. Rather, we pray that God would keep temptation at bay from us, even going so far to asking for no temptations even to arise in our life.
However, we know that will not happen. When temptation does come, do we always recognize it? Temptations come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The temptation to swear comes as we gather with our friends. We think it is harmless. We join in thinking we can do it just this once. We feel the temptation to skip church. Again, it does not seem like a big deal. Everyone does it. One week of missing church will not hurt. It will feel good to sleep in and get things done around the house. Before we know it, we grow too comfortable in missing church. We miss so often, we lose our favorite pew.
We might think of temptation lightly. We might not even recognize temptation, but we need to remember our Savior. He carried the punishment for all our sins. Our Savior needed to die so that those sins might be remembered no more by our gracious God. Every sin is an act of disobedience to God. We can be thankful that Jesus backed away from his temptations, so that we might be forgiven for walking head first into our temptations. He would fight the devil and crush his head by his death on the cross.
If we think temptation will not harm us, we need to hear Jesus’ warning to his disciples. After Jesus finishes his prayer, he returns to the disciples. Those men should have been praying alone with Jesus. They should have been there for their master whose heart was heavy with sorrow. How did Jesus find them? They are asleep.
“Simon are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:37). It had been a long day for the disciples. They grew tired from all the activities of the Passover. They wanted to go home to bed, but Jesus brought them out here to the Garden of Gethsemane. They fell asleep failing to recognize the magnitude of the situation.
Jesus warned them again to pray. He went back to pray by himself. When he returned, he found them all asleep. Their spirit might have wanted to remain alert and awake. Their bodies let them down. The time was too late. Judas entered the Garden. He came not to join Jesus in prayer, but he led the Jews to arrest Jesus.
We might be like those disciples sleeping when temptation comes. We go through this life blind to all the temptations around us. We think somehow all those temptations will be handled and not bother us. We also will look to our own strength to overcome those temptations. The devil dare not come after me, because I will defeat him all the time. I am wise to his tricks. All too soon we fall.
Our feeble flesh will fail. We need to stay alert. We need to come to Jesus for strength to overcome all temptations. He knows what it is like to overcome temptation. He went to the cross to pay for all our failings. We look to his victory over sin, death, and the devil to overcome our temptations.
Jesus promises to help us. We fend off Satan’s attacks by going back to God’s Word. We point to our Savior who overcame Satan, and he will help us overcome our temptations. Our faith trusts firmly in God for all of this.
We cannot take temptation lightly. Our spirit is willing to fight against those temptations. It does so not with its own power but with God’s power. We will overcome temptation with God’s power and his victory on our side. So the next time temptation comes, turn to Jesus! Amen.