Triumphing Over Temptation
(1) In May, at the beginning of my eight week Sabbatical,
my wife and I spent two weeks at our family’s cabin near Galena, IL.
Part of what we hoped to do there was to go on long walks
so as to build up our stamina
because we were going to the Grand Canyon
and wanted to be in good enough shape to walk for a mile or maybe even two down into the canyon.
Well, for some reason by back went out.
That doesn’t often happen and when it does it usually gets better within a couple days.
But for two weeks I was in really difficult pain
and couldn’t walk more than a quarter mile without severe pain.
To be honest, I really battled discouragement.
For several years we have dreamed and planned on touring the Southwest
and now was the time.
All our reservations were set up
but it looked like we might not be able to go,
since riding in the car aggravated my back even more.
Well, we came back to Ames,
got some professional help
and, with some improvement
cautiously started west.
Day by day my back improved a bit.
But as we were backing into the campsite at Mather campground,
my wife, while signaling to me how far back to come,
stepped backwards into a depression
and fell hard on her tailbone.
Now, she couldn’t walk.
It was hard for her even to move at all.
Here we were, right next to the rim of the Grand Canyon
and we couldn’t even walk the short distance required to be able to look at it.
Both of us battled discouragement and anger.
We knew that we should rejoice in trials
because, as James says, they produce endurance
which works to make us perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing.
But at the moment, it was hard to believe that.
To us, it was a disappointment that was hard to rejoice in.
Well, fortunately after a couple days of rest, she began to improve.
No broken tailbone.
And, although we didn’t recover enough to walk down into the canyon,
we were able to visit the major viewpoints both on the South and North Rim.
All of us face temptation.
We’re tempted to doubt, to fear, or to lust.
We’re tempted to despair or grumble or rage.
We’re tempted to put ourselves at the center of everything
and erupt or despair
if things don’t go as we desire or envision.
My name is Dave Bovenmyer and I’m one of Stonebrook’s pastors
And today I’d like to lead us through a passage in the gospel of Luke,
A book of the Bible that we’ve been studying on Sunday mornings.
(2)So open your Bibles to Luke 22:39.
That’s page 882 in the Stonebrook bible.
In today’s section we will see the responses of three different men
to the temptations that they faced in extreme trial.
And although most of us will seldom or ever be in such a severe trial as these men,
still we can learn from their examples
how and how not to respond to the temptations that we face every day.
So, let’s review the story so far:
It’s the Passover festival and Jerusalem has tripled in size because of all the pilgrims who are there.
Jesus has been hailed to be the Messiah/King
and He’s publically affirmed the truth
of what the crowd has been saying.
And He’s cleaned the merchants out the temple and set up shop,
teaching the people every day from early morning until night.
In His teaching He’s especially targeted the nation’s leaders,
who then tried to trap Him with questions to give them a reason to arrest Him.
But he doggedly outmaneuvered them—
only increasing His popularity.
So the authorities started searching for a way to find Him alone
so that they could arrest Him away from the crowds.
Well, to their delight, Judas,
one of the twelve chosen disciples,
went to the authorities to betray Jesus to them.
And while Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover,
Jesus told them that later that night He would be arrested
and that they would all abandon Him.
And He told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the cock crowed—
something that Peter vehemently denied he would ever do.
Finally, Jesus made sure they had at least one sword in their possession
in order to give the appearance that He was a lawbreaker.
You see, Jesus had poured over the scriptures
and knew that it was predicted that the Messiah/King would be numbered among the transgressors.
So, He planted incriminating evidence against Himself
to make sure that this would be fulfilled.
So, let’s pick up in Luke 22:39
39And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.
(3)Here’s a photo that I took a few years ago of an olive grove near the bottom of the Mount of Olives,
close to where this garden had been.
This may be similar to what the garden looked like.
Earlier in Luke’s story, we learned
that Jesus was aware that Judas was going to betray Him.
Jesus knew that Judas was familiar with where He was staying at night.
Yet He made no effort to go to a different location to avoid being found.
40And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
What was the temptation?
Earlier, Jesus told them that Satan had demanded to sift them like wheat.
But Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail.
So, the temptation was to disown and abandon Him as the Messiah—
to abandon their faith.
He’s telling them, “pray that that won’t happen.
Pray for strength.
Pray for courage.
Pray for endurance.
41And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Matthew, in his account, says that Jesus “fell on His face.”
Mark says that He “fell to the ground.”
The burden and agony were so great that he couldn’t stand up
and He fell to His knees with His face to the ground.
43And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.
In answer to His prayer, God sent an angel to encourage Him and strengthen Him.
Although the disciples could not stay awake to support Him,
His Father mercifully sent an angel to be with Him.
He wasn’t utterly alone in this agonizing hour.
44And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
He was in so much agony that He started sweating—
so much so that it dripped off Him to the ground.
There’s a very rare condition called Hematidrosis,
where under extreme stress,
blood and blood pigment can mix with sweat,
which then looks like blood.
It’s hard to imagine a more intense description of someone in distress.
It seems that Jesus was on the verge of psychological and emotional collapse.
He was teetering on the edge of being totally overcome by grief, sorrow, and fear.
What was so distressing?
Well, facing death is no easy thing.
But He was also facing death by crucifixion,
one of the most excruciation tortures ever invented by man.
But probably most horrifying was the prospect of experiencing His Father’s wrath
as he took the sin of the world upon Himself in judgment.
The prospect of the cup Jesus was about to drink was utterly horrifying.
Yet it was something that He knew God wanted Him to do.
So, what did He do in His overwhelmed state?
He didn’t run away,
He didn’t freeze,
He didn’t fight back in anger and rage,
He didn’t medicate the overwhelming emotion with alcohol or something else.
He didn’t try to counter the pain with pleasure.
He turned to His Father and brought Himself and His desires to God.
He interacted with the only one who could truly help.
And He was honest with God.
He told His Father what He was wanting and desiring.
Yet He did so in submission,
putting God’s will above His own.
And through His prayer,
His honest appeal,
and His attitude of submission,
He found strength from God to endure—
to resist the temptation to not go through with it.
Matthew, in his account, adds the words “if possible,” let this cup pass from me.
If there is any other way.
If there is any possibility that the people of the world can be saved and restored to You,
let that be the way.
But the Father’s “No” answer to the one He loved the very most
indicates that there was no other way.
Nothing else would work.
The agony of the cross was necessary.
Only the death of the Son of God was sufficient to take away the wrath of God—
so that men and women can be forgiven and have peace with God.
Don’t despise it.
Nothing else will do.
No amount of personal good works,
no amount of tears of repentance,
no amount of pilgrimages or penance,
Nothing else will do.
If there was any other way,
you can be sure that Jesus’ gracious, merciful, loving Father
would have answered His prayer right then and there
and rescued His Son from the agony He was about to endure.
45And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:39–46, ESV)
How difficult this must have been for Jesus.
It must have hurt to have His closest students,
who had become more than students,
but had become close friends,
that they were either unwilling or unable to stay awake
and pray with Him in His most difficult hour.
Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus actually returned to the disciples three times
and each time found them sleeping.
But Luke tells us why the disciples were sleeping.
They were overcome with sorrow.
Weeks earlier, when Jesus told them multiple times that He would suffer and die,
they did not understand it.
Luke said that it was hidden from them.
But now the horrible truth was sinking in.
At the Passover meal Jesus had told them
that He was about to suffer
and that this would be His last Passover meal with them;
that one of them was going to betray Him;
that Peter would deny Him,
and that He was inaugurating a new covenant with His blood!
Peter was beginning to understand it.
He said that he was ready to go with Jesus both to prison and to death.”
He sensed what was happening.
And here in the garden—
watching their beloved Rabbi collapse to the ground in grief over what was about to happen
and seeing Him cry out in agony to His Father,
the horror of what was happening overwhelmed them with grief.
They just couldn’t stay awake
and pray with Him in this terrible, terrible hour.
I find Jesus’ response amazing.
My response would likely have been
“Do you sluggards care about me at all?”
“Can’t you see that I need your support in this darkest hour?”
(4)But in Matthew’s account we read His response:
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He understood their weakness.
He assumed, I think rightly, that they loved Him and greatly desired to support Him.
But they were being pushed beyond their limits.
He didn’t take their lack of support personally
or assume negative things about their hearts that weren’t true.
(5)Let’s read on and see what happens
47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them.
Think about what this must have been like.
Here comes a large crowd,
Matthew tells us with swords and clubs.
If we weave together the gospel accounts there were both temple guards
and perhaps as many as 200 Roman soldiers,
sent by the authorities to arrest Him.
But most tragic of all was that Judas,
one of His beloved disciples,
was in the lead.
How heartbreaking that must have been for Jesus.
One He had loved and served,
One He had taught and labored together with,
One whose feet He had humbly washed
. . . was leading the mob that was coming to arrest Him.
Now, throughout history, Judas has always been a figure hard to understand.
Why did he do it?
How could He see all the miracles that Jesus did
and not believe in Him
and then betray Him like He did?
Judas, as one of the twelve,
Had even been given authority to heal the sick and cast out demons.
How could He fall away and betray the Lord like he did?
Some have suggested that Judas actually did believe that Jesus was the Messiah
but thought that He needed a little push
to get Him to rise up and assume His kingship.
But I see no evidence of that.
Earlier this week I heard a theory that was new to me.
That Judas had actually been paying close attention to what Jesus said.
He’d heard Jesus say that He was going to die,
So, not believing in the resurrection,
he thought he would cash in as well as he could
as Jesus was going down in flames.
I don’t know about that one either.
It’s likely that Judas’ heart motivations involved more complexity than what is written about him,
but the scripture is clear that greed was a primary motivating factor.
We saw earlier in Luke that Judas betrayed Jesus for money.
John tells us that Judas was in charge of the moneybag
and had been stealing from it.
From this we see that Judas had little, if any, fear God.
No one who believes that God exists
and is watching
would steal from the Messiah’s moneybag.
So it’s clear that Judas’ betrayal was not a snap decision
radically at odds with what he believed
or inconsistent with his character.
Despite his outward piety that totally fooled the other disciples,
he had for a long time giving in to greed
rather than putting His hope in God and the coming of the kingdom.
But however complex his motives were, here he is,
leading Jesus’ enemies to arrest Him.
47He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Notice again, Jesus’ grace.
What would you have said to Judas?
Perhaps something like,
“You ungrateful scumbag!
“How could you not notice all the love I gave you?”
Or “You stupid idiot!
Didn’t you see all those miracles?
Don’t you see that you’re betraying your God
and throwing your life away?”
What does Jesus say?
He seems to give Judas one final chance.
“Do you really want to betray Me Judas?”
“And do you really want to do it with a kiss,
the worst kind of hypocrisy and treachery?
“I’m the Son of Man?”
“Do you really want to do this?”
49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.
Now we know from the Gospel of John that Peter is the one who wielded the sword.
He had just awoken from sleep and was likely groggy and unprepared.
So he slashes off the ear of the High Priest’s servant,
who was likely in a position of authority
and may actually have been in command of the whole group.
Peter vividly demonstrates his eagerness to be loyal to Jesus and defend Him.
51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.
Jesus would have nothing to do with resistance.
He knew that it was not time to fight
but just the opposite—
time to surrender.
But look at Jesus’ love for His enemies.
Here’s a man in charge of a mob to arrest Him and put Him to death.
But Jesus cares about him
and heals the wound of His enemy.
Jesus acted in grace—
when others were acting in hatred.
He showed grace to Peter by stopping his sword-swinging,
that would likely have led to Peter’s death.
He showed grace to the high priest’s servant
by healing his ear.
And He showed grace to the whole world
by willingly yielding Himself to the mob and going to Calvary.
Even when facing intense suffering,
Jesus loved others,
even those who were bringing the suffering.
52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
With these words, Jesus offers the chief priests, officers and elders a final chance to repent.
He basically tells them “Don’t you see that you don’t have justice as your goal?
“Don’t you see the error of what you are doing?
“If I’ve done something worthy of being apprehended,
“why didn’t you bring the accusations out in the open where everyone could hear and judge?
“But you’ve had to resort to the power of secrecy and darkness.
“Don’t you see your error?
54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house and Peter was following at a distance 55And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.”
The servant girl, being part of the high priest’s household,
likely had been in the temple area while Jesus was preaching
and had become familiar with Jesus’ disciples.
As Peter got close to the fire, she could see him better
and she recognized him.
57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”
He blatantly lied.
Again, we don’t know all that was happening in Peter’s heart.
Just a few minutes before, he had begun to fight to protect Jesus.
Perhaps his presumptuous bravado was continuing
and he had decided to go undercover as a spy,
thinking that, if he was close,
he just might be able to do something to help Jesus.
It’s possible that He justified lying and hiding his association with Jesus in that way.
Or perhaps his courage just gave out.
It took great courage to follow Jesus at all
and especially to go right into the courtyard!
And once he was there, there was no turning back.
If his identity was revealed, he too would surely be apprehended and perhaps killed.
So maybe his courage took him so far and then failed.
But it’s interesting to ask, “Should Peter have been there at all?”
Matthew writes that Jesus had told them,
(6)“You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” (Matthew 26:31–32, ESV)
Perhaps if Peter had paid closer attention,
rather than worrying so much about his own honor,
he might have realized that it was God’s will for them to scatter
when the shepherd was struck down.
And John seems to confirm this in his description of Jesus’ arrest:
(7)Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.”. . . So, if you seek me, let these men go.” (John 18:4 & 8, ESV)
It’s likely that the garden area was surrounded by a wall.
And Jesus came right to the entrance
right out in the open
and identified Himself
so that His disciples would not be arrested.
This seems to be another signal to Peter
that they were to scatter
and not try to rescue Him or follow Him.
But if it was Jesus’ intention that they scatter,
Peter missed these signals
and found himself in a situation
that he probably shouldn’t have been in.
And in that situation,
it came down to a choice between denying that he knew Jesus
and facing what could easily have resulted in a death sentence.
(8) 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.”
Galileans had a distinctive accent.
Perhaps someone had asked him a question,
and Peter was forced to give an answer,
and his accent gave him away.
60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.”
The other gospels say that, with this response, he started to curse.
60And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.
I’m really curious what that look from Jesus was like?
Was it a look of sadness that one of His three main disciples had denied that he knew Him?
Was it a look of compassion at the predicament Peter had gotten himself into?
Perhaps it was both.
Peter had just done the last thing in the world that would ever have wanted to do.
He had denied that He knew the Savior
whom He loved so fervently.
How did he get there?
Firstly, it seems that he was filled with bravado
and did not take seriously Jesus’ warning that he would deny Him in just a few hours.
He was overly confident in his own loyalty
and strength to resist temptation.
Secondly, he had not understood and accepted Jesus’ words
and God’s surprising plan for the Messiah to suffer and die and rise from the dead.
So he was ready to fight when God wanted him to yield.
And he followed Jesus into the courtyard,
perhaps believing he could somehow help,
when it seems that Jesus wanted him to get away
and not be apprehended.
63 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. 64 They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 65 And they said many other things against him, blaspheming [or reviling] him.
What a tragic scene.
We don’t know how many times Jesus was struck
or how brutally He was beaten.
But we can imagine that it wasn’t pretty—
to be at the mercy of a group of course and vulgar soldiers
who took such great delight in striking and mocking Him.
It’s actually quite ironic.
Jesus is mocked as a prophet who does not know what is happening.
But in actuality He is the only one
who is fully aware of what is happening and why.
We see in the actions of these soldiers
a picture of mankind’s hostility to God.
And we see in Jesus the tenacity of God’s Son
to rectify that very rebellion
and give each of us the opportunity to be forgiven and accepted by God.
**So, what do we learn about overcoming temptation from these three examples?
(9)From Judas we learn that outward appearances
and going through the motions
are not a sufficient foundation
to carry us in a time of severe temptation.
So, what about it?
Are you stealing or cheating in secret?
Are you secretly looking at porn?
Are you secretly drinking or gambling or having an affair,
while projecting to everyone around you that you are a model of virtue.
Appearances and going through the spiritual motions are not enough.
We have to truly believe—
and that includes believing
that when no else is watching, God is.
Now, I know that all of us struggle to believe this every day.
All of us have times every day when we can look back and see
“I didn’t really trust in God there.”
But bring your struggles to God and to others who can help you.
How things might have been different
if Judas had come to Jesus and said,
“Lord, I’ve been stealing from the moneybag.
Would you forgive me and help me?”
That’s what God wants.
Bring your sins and struggles to God
and He will help you overcome them.
**From Peter we learn something a bit different.
Peter’s faith was sincere.
Peter did believe in God
and loved Jesus
and was growing in His faith and obedience.
And, although Peter denied that he knew Jesus,
ultimately his faith did not fail.
He did turn back and strengthened his brothers.
What can we learn from Peter?
(10)First, when God gives you a warning, take it seriously.
Don’t assume that you are strong enough or spiritual enough to push your way through.
It seems likely that Peter had too high an image of himself.
He felt that he was too committed,
too spiritual to ever deny the Lord.
A verse that comes to mind is 1 Corinthians 10:12:
(11)Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12, ESV)
Don’t overestimate your ability to stand.
Be cautious because temptation can be more overwhelming than we think.
Secondly, by going into the courtyard,
Peter put himself into an extremely difficult situation
where temptation was likely to be strong.
(12)We should try to limit our exposure to temptation.
We should pray the Lord’s prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.”
And we should make efforts to avoid temptation when possible.
(13)Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. (Proverbs 4:14–15, ESV)
If you struggle with alcohol,
get it out of your house.
Don’t go to bars.
Do whatever you can to make drinking inconvenient.
If you struggle with porn,
put a filter and accountability software on your devices.
If you think you are too much of a sports junkie or news junkie and would like to do something more profitable
unsubscribe from cable,
take the news apps off your phone.
If you are tempted to overspend,
get some budgeting software
and find someone to help you be accountable to your budget.
Take efforts to avoid temptation.
Finally, what do we learn from Jesus about resisting temptation?
First we should seek to understand God’s will and plan.
(14)We know that Jesus was a prophet
and received revelation directly from God.
Yet as we study the gospel of Luke, it’s clear that Jesus also really, really knew the scripture.
He’d studied the prophets
and particularly passages that referenced the Messiah/King and
how He would suffer.
So that when confronted with that suffering,
He knew that it was God’s will
and knew that what was happening
was all unfolding according to God’s grand plan of redemption.
And that gave Him a tremendous ability
to resist the temptation to bail out on that plan.
Now, I’m not saying that we can have the same degree of certainty
about God’s plan for our own life journey.
But the more we know the scripture and the overall purposes of God,
the better we will be able to determine what God is doing in the story of our own lives.
(15)Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:17, ESV)
Study the scripture.
Understand the grand story of God and of redemption.
Soak your mind in the truth of the gospel—
so that you can understand what the Lord is up to.
And finally, when Jesus was overcome with grief and distress and fear—
and when He was tempted not to do what He knew God wanted Him to do—
(16)Jesus went to His Father.
He wasn’t ashamed of His weakness and fear and grief.
He wasn’t ashamed of His desire that the Father to find another solution.
He brought His desire to God and pleaded for help.
And He received strength from an angel, and grace to endure
This is what Jesus did that the disciples failed to do.
He told them to pray—
so that they might not enter into temptation.
In my own life, I’m trying to do this more and more.
When I’m anxious,
I’m trying to remember to bring those fears to God.
When my heart is dull toward God or toward His word or toward prayer,
which frankly happens every day,
I’m trying to remember to tell God what’s happening in my heart
and ask Him to soften my heart
and incline my heart toward Him.
When I’m tempted to procrastinate,
which is a big weakness of mine,
I’m trying to acknowledge that to God
and ask Him to give me a heart to do the hard things first.
When I’m discouraged and hopeless that I can ever change
or that someone else can change
or that the church can change
and be what God wants us to be,
I’m trying to bring those disappoint-ments
and those passions
and the desires behind them
Like Jesus, I’m trying to be honest with my weaknesses and struggles and bring God into them,
knowing that He is not ashamed of me.
He’s not going to reproach me.
He already knows about all the bad attitudes and words and actions anyway.
He longs to be sought
and He longs to help,
if we will just come to Him whenever we face temptation.
Help to resist might not always come immediately.
There might be difficult lessons He needs to teach us first.
But keep coming to Him
Keep coming to Him.
Keep coming to Him.
(17)Let us pray.
Lord, Thank you for Jesus’ example. Even in the midst of terrible treatment, injustice, hatred, betrayal, abandonment, Jesus continued to love. He continued to care for others. He entrusted Himself to You. Thank You that You helped Him and ultimately raised Him from the dead and seated Him at Your right hand, where He is right now. We praise You for Your unfathomable love and grace. Help us to believe in You. Help us to cling to You. Help us to come to You when we are tempted to be selfish or angry or discouraged or lustful or despairing. Meet us there when we come—with Your mercy and grace.
In Jesus’ precious name we pray.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV