Today, Jesus is going to show us how to face temptation when going through a crisis. Every follower of Jesus is going to struggle with temptation. Temptation is an opportunity to be selfish, to do evil, be unkind, and to disobey God. Temptation will always come knocking at the door when you are in a crisis, when you are experiencing stress, and the pressure is heavy. When you feel overwhelmed is when temptation loves to visit you.
Being tempted is not a sin, its a battle
I want you to understand that being tempted is not a sin, being tempted is a battle. Paul made this clear when He wrote 1 Corinthians 10:13, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure” (NLT). Temptation is a common occurrence that every person and every believer faces. I like what Billy Sunday once said, “Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in.”
You temptation will be different than another’s temptation
Another thought, your temptation will be different than my temptation. This is why one person struggles with lust, but this other person does not. This is why one person wrestles with greed, but this other person does not. Your temptation will be different than others. This is what God’s Word is saying in James 1:14, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful action” (NLT). Just because your spouse, your son or daughter struggles with a sin that you didn’t struggle with doesn’t make you better, it just makes you different.
Today we are going to take a look at how Jesus faced temptation and what He said about facing temptation during a time of high anxiety and pressure.
They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. 34 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 35 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 37 Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 38 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” 39 Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. 40 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say. 41 When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!” (Mark 14:32-42, NLT)
Let’s focus on verses 37-38.
Mark tells us that Jesus returned and found the disciples asleep. Jesus had told the other eight disciples to wait at the garden’s gate. Jesus took Peter, James, and John deeper into the garden with Him. Somewhere in the garden Jesus told the three disciples to wait here for Him and Jesus went a stone’s throw away (about 50 feet) from them so He could pray. During this time of prayer Jesus is crying out to God about removing the cup of suffering from Him. The pressure and stress of this moment is so great that Jesus began to sweat great drops of blood. After about an hour of this intense praying Jesus returned and found the disciples asleep.
Why were the disciples asleep? One obvious reason is it is late at night. It’s after midnight and they have had a long day. Physically, they are worn out. But Luke tells us they were also “exhausted from grief” (Luke 22:45, NLT). This phrase exhausted from grief means to be overwhelmed with sorrow or to be worn out from being deeply sad. Have you ever been worn out by grief, exhausted from sadness? Grief and sadness can cause people to sleep and to sleep more than normal. One Bible translation paraphrased the disciples as being “drugged by grief” (MSG).
What was it they were grieving over that caused them to be worn out by it? Just a few hours earlier Jesus dropped a bombshell on them. He told them that He would die (Mark 14:21), one of the disciples would betray Him (Mark 14:18) and all of them would desert Him (Mark 14:27). Because of this, the disciples began to feel sorrow, grief, and despair. From their perspective, their world had collapsed. Despair had crept in, and there seemed to be nothing left to pray for. Based on their understanding of what Jesus has told them, the mission seems to be about over.
Have you ever been exhausted from grief? Have you ever been overwhelmed with sorrow? You think, what’s the use? Why even pray about it? It’s over. It’s done. You find yourself feeling the despair that comes with what looks like defeat or loss? You feel like giving up. Your marriage has fallen apart, why even pray about it? Your kids have walk so far away from God, why even pray about it anymore? Your health is so far gone, why ask God to do anything about it. Your finances are in a mess, why pray about it? When these things are fresh, you can become overwhelmed with grief and you become worn out with sadness. Those moments are when you will find yourself the weakest. You will find temptations stronger. This is when people make a lot of poor decisions.
What do you do in those moments when you are exhausted from grief? The answer is in Jesus’ statement to Peter. Jesus walks up to the three disciples who were asleep and addresses Peter. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Let’s break this down.
Mark tells us that Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep?” This is interesting because when Jesus first met Simon, Jesus changed His name. Simon’s brother, Andrew, brought Simon to meet Jesus. In John 1:42 we are told that when they met, Jesus looked “intently at Simon” and said, “Your name is Simon, son of John – but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”)” (NLT).
Let’s start with his given name of Simon. Simon is a good name. Simon means one “that hears and obeys.” It’s a great name to give someone who follows God’s will and is obedient to God’s Word. Eventually, Peter becomes an example of that name.
But Jesus decided to change Simon’s name from one good name to another good name. “Cephas” is Aramaic for rock. “Peter” is Greek for rock. Before there was Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson, there was Peter “The Rock” Cephas. Jesus changes His name because He wants Peter to be a rock spiritually. Stable, solid, consistent, and immovable.
The last time Peter was called Simon was way back in Mark 3:16 (about three years ago). Ever since then, it’s been Peter this and Peter that. But now, out of nowhere Jesus calls Peter by his old name, Simon. Why did Jesus do this? I think it’s a subtle reminder and call to Peter that he needed to hear and obey. It is a time for faithfulness and commitment and dedication. Jesus is saying “Simon, I need you to be awake, listening, watching, learning, and obedient not asleep.”
Then Jesus rhetorically asked, Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Back in verse 34 Jesus told them “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” What does Jesus mean for them to “keep watch”? To “watch” what? The phrase “keep watch” (gregoreuo) means to continually be on the alert and to maintain an attitude of vigilance. It means to stay awake and pay attention, be mentally alert, and observe intently. A literal translation of this would be, “Remain here and watch” (ESV). So, what does Jesus want them to see? So far, they had watched Jesus walk on water, watch Jesus calm the storm, watch Jesus raise the dead, watch Jesus cast out demons, watch Jesus confront false teaching, watch Jesus heal the blind and watched Him do many other wonderful things. Now, they are to watch Jesus grieve, be distressed, be troubled and horrified.
This watching is not to be like watching a show for entertainment or watching an instructional video but watching for the purpose of learning and praying. In verse 38 Jesus would say to them, Keep watch and pray…. I want you to learn how to pray through grief, pray through sorrow, pray when you are crushed by others sin.
He also wanted them to watch and pray so they could learn how to grieve and not sin. Learning how to face the horror of sin and not fall into more sin. Jesus would say in verse 38, Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation (NLT).
Instead of watching Jesus, listening to Jesus pray, and learning from what they are seeing they go to sleep. They were unable to watch for one hour.
Then in verse 38 Jesus says, Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. Jesus tells them to do two things.
First, Jesus says to keep watch (gregoreuo). When Jesus says keep watch, He is actually telling them to keep watching Him, learning from Him and to be spiritually alert. The Greek word for keep watch has an interesting image attached to it. It is a word that describes a person who carefully crosses a river while stepping on slippery stones. If they do not pay close attention to their steps, they would end up in the water. Jesus is telling the disciples they are on slippery ground right now. They need to focus, be watchful, and alert because if they are not they could slip and fall into temptation.
The same is true for you. Jesus wants you to keep watch. He wants you to be spiritually alert and awake. He does not want you to dose off spiritually (Rom. 13:11-13). Later, Peter would say something similar in 1 Peter 5:8 when he writes, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith” (NLT).
The second thing Jesus said was for them to pray (proseuchomai). This word pray is a general word for prayer and includes all aspects of prayer.
- This would include praise (telling God how great and wonderful He is and as a result reminding yourself of how big and awesome your God is compared to what you are facing).
- It would also include confession (telling God about your sin and admitting to Him what you have done).
- It would include supplication (talking to God about what concerns you in your life).
- It would include intercession (talking to God about what concerns you have for someone else)
- It would include thanksgiving (telling God how grateful and appreciative you are for all that He has done, is doing, and will do in your life)
This word pray does not mean simply praying generic general prayers, but praying specifically about what it is you are facing at that moment. You praise God in light of what you are going through. You confess any sin that you have done leading up to this point. You talk to God about your concerns about your own weaknesses and blind spots regarding what you are about to face. You talk to God about others who are involved in what you are facing. You specifically thank God for what He is going to do in this season or situation in your life. To keep watch and pray is to pray with your spiritual eyes wide open.
Jesus tells the disciples to keep watch and pray. Why? Jesus tells them so that you will not give in to temptation. A few of thoughts from this.
- First, Jesus knew what was coming. He knew the disciples would be under great pressure and they were already experiencing intense grief and disappointment. He knew this would be a great opportunity for temptation to turn into sin. They needed to be alert, watchful, and talking to God through this.
- Number two, Jesus is teaching us that to watch and pray comes before the temptation. Don’t wait until you are tempted to battle the temptation. Watch and pray before the temptation arrives. Prepare yourself now for what is coming.
- Third, Jesus is teaching us that temptation is coming. You will be tempted to disobey God and not follow Him. You will be given an opportunity to be untrue and unfaithful to God. Jesus says, “I want you to be ready. Watch and pray.”
- Finally, Think of temptation like an enemy that you know is going to attack you at some point. You don’t know when and you don’t know where. You have enlisted two bodyguards, one named watchfulness and the other named prayer. They not only protect you, but they also alert you to possible incoming attacks. God says in Genesis 4:7, “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master” (NLT).
When you are facing or in a season of grief or anxiety you need to be watchful and prayerful. Grief can cause you to give up. Anxiety can cause you to quit. Jesus is showing us that is when you need to become more watchful, more alert, and have more conversations with God. Don’t let your grief and anxiety distract you. Be aware, calm, and present.
- Why do you think some followers of Jesus believe being tempted is a sin, rather than a battle? What’s the difference?
- Do you think followers of Jesus look down on those who struggle with a different temptation than theirs? If so, why do you think believers do this?
- Have you ever been worn out by grief or exhausted from sadness? How did that effect your relationship with God and others?
- What’s the significance of Jesus calling peter by his original name? What’s the implication or application for you?
- Jesus wanted the disciples to “keep watch and pray.” What does that mean? How does it apply to you?
- How do you pray through grief and sorrow?
- How does grief and sorrow make temptation stronger?
- How does “watching and praying” guard us against temptation?
- How do we “watch” Jesus today?
- What advice would you give a new Christian about pray when facing temptation?
- What is the main lesson you take away from this study?