The Hidden Danger of Temptation
Read Matthew 26:36-41
“Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation”
For the disciples, it had been an emotionally and physically exhausting day. The day began with the joy of festivities and ended with the devastating turmoil. For the Jews, Passover was a day of joy and celebration as they remembered God’s redemptive deliverance from Egypt. Like Christmas for us, it was a day of feasting, family, and celebration. But what started as a celebration soon took a dark and foreboding turn. The conversation would normally be about God’s deliverance, but Jesus shocked the disciples when he told them that not only would he be leaving them, but that he would be betrayed by one of the disciples. Instead of unity and joy, the atmosphere now became one of suspicion and fear as the disciples looked inwardly in their own hearts and also at one another, wondering who the betrayer would be. Their apprehension was compounded when Christ told them that not only would he be arrested but that they would all scatter into the night and abandon him. Such betrayal and desertion seemed unthinkable to the disciples, and they all affirmed the binding loyalty to Christ. But in their bravado, they could not see the weakness of their own heart.
With such turmoil and emotions weighing upon them, it is not surprising that they were exhausted by the end of the day. Emotional upheaval drains our physical, emotional, and spiritual strength and leaves us wearied. So, it was not surprising that when Christ asked them to pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane, their eyes grew heavy with sleep. As Christ prayed for the cup of God’s wrath and suffering to pass from him (vs. 39), the disciples fell prey to slumber. When Christ saw their drowsiness, he recognized that it was not just physical but spiritual as well. While they slept, Christ recognize that the greatest test of their faith was about to descend upon them and so he challenges them to remain watchful in prayer. But even more importantly, he prayed for their faith that it would remain strong (Luke 22:32). Christ understood what often we failed to recognize: Strong faith in the day can soon turn to fearful doubt in the night.
However, we are not that different than the disciples. Often, we come to church and proclaim our allegiance and loyalty to God at church only to fall prey to doubt and temptation when adversity strikes. Like the disciples, our “spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Just like the disciples, we succumb to temptation because often we are blind to our own weakness and spiritual frailties. The first step to resisting temptation is to recognize its appeal and our inherent weakness. His statement “Keep watch and pray” involve continual watchfulness and prayer, not just a momentary prayer fired up in the heat of battle. To prepare for the onslaught of temptation, we must remain vigilant and prayerful in our anticipation of its threat. This stems from the honest recognition that we are still sinful in our flesh. Resistance to temptation does not just begin when the temptation arises; it begins before we face the allure of sin. We are to pray for God to protect us from the pressures of sin (see the Lord’s prayer, “Lead us not into temptation”), and we are to pray for God’s strength when we confront a situation that reveals our own spiritual frailty and vulnerability to sin. As you pray, pray for both God’s protection from temptation and God’s deliverance when you are tempted. Pray for vigilance, lest temptation strikes when you are least expecting it to come for temptation is hidden, hidden in our own heart.