Are you ever tempted aside from the tasks of work, house work, looking after the kids, doing your homework. Have you ever thought of doing something different from the norm, taking the day off to just relax, go bush a walk along the sea shore? I really like the story Jesus walking along the sea shore, of the disciples calling and how they just went and followed him.
The disciples of Jesus were a group of men, not to dissimilar to the people we come across every day, though their lives were probably initially a bit less complicated. I personally like the accounts of the fishermen called by Jesus. They were going about their work of fishing and how they laid down their nets and followed Jesus. There is something in this that grabs me about this account of their calling. I can even picture myself at the lakeside with my nets receiving Jesus invite and heading off to follow Him.
But what if I had the advantage of foresight? If this was going to be a day of record catches, if this was going to be one of those out of the box kind of days when the sun shone and the sea was flat, lapping quietly at the side of the boat, the gulls we playing games above the waves, song birds were hanging overhead singing sweet nothings to the gentlest of breezes, as a the drone of cicadas filled the air so much so that it could be heard from well off the shore.
Then when the day was ending, I could be found with friends around a bonfire on the beach, my pockets bulging with cash from good price I got for the catch. Seated in a group of friends around that fire as it died down, enjoying the taste of the fresh cooked fish the pick of the catch, pickled olives. The sweetness of dried apricots, almonds, ripe figs and fresh bread, enjoyed with a song of celebration at the abundance of the Lord’s provision. If it was going to be one of those days, a day of days when all was right with the world and life was without challenge, would I leave my nets? Would you leave your nets?
The truth is they left their nets, the truth is that life has its challenges, the truth is those great days occur, but not with a regularity that can be depended on, life is often challenging. Over the next few years this Rabbi Jesus who called them from their nets was going to journey with these men. He was going to challenge their thinking and change their futures. He was going to turn their world inside out and upside down. He was going to change the very way that they approached every day and every person they came into contact with.
As we roll forward in time from the sea shore from the boats from the young disciples starting down the road of a new faith and adventure we find ourselves on a hillside in a an olive garden called Gethsemane at a place where the Rabbi had often gone. This was a practice of his, to retreat to this place, his disciples followed him. On reaching that place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s…………(Luke 22: 39-46).
This passage comes just before Jesus arrest the time when this teacher would be taken from his disciples, tried, tortured and killed. We are all familiar with him, we are here today to worship him as Divine. But within or belief we are aware that he was not only God, he was human, he was flesh and he was blood, and as such, with our knowledge of his resurrection from the dead he is still human and divine. As a church we have a doctrine that says, “We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the Divine and human natures are united, so that He is truly and properly God and is truly and properly man.”
The emotions felt by people were felt by Jesus, the sharpness of a stone between his foot and sandal would have hurt Jesus, the heat of anger was felt by Jesus, compassion for those lost in their sins brought Jesus sorrow. We also see in Jesus though a man who felt power drain from him as a woman was healed from years of unstoppable bleeding, a man who commanded storms to cease, a man who taught things that would change people’s thinking for all of time, a man who drove legion of demons from a man, a man who walked on water and a man who forgave sins!
This is Jesus and here he is alone on a hill side, well not quite alone, his disciples are a stone’s throw from him. He had left them to pray alone. But first he said to them “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”
Jesus withdrew to pray! He knew what was coming, he knew the pain was to be more than that of a stone under his foot or the throbbing brought about by a wood splinter under his thumb nail. In Matthews account “….he said to them, my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, stay here and keep watch with me.”(Matthew 26:38).
In Luke’s account He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” In Marks account he is said to have spoken the words “Abba, Father everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36).
You may be thinking cup what cup; let me explain. In Matthew 26:27-28 we read this, …”he took the cup, gave thanks and offered to them, saying, drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
The cup is a symbol of sorrow and suffering…the blood that Jesus was too lose on the cross was to wash away the sins of all who would call on his name confessing him as Lord and risen from the dead. That blood still cleanses the sins of all who confess Jesus as Lord.
In his sorrow, in his agony, at this place of suffering and prayer he was strengthened by an angel from heaven. Luke tells us, “but as his anguish continued, he prayed more intently, in this time of his distress and prayer his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
This sweet drops of blood is a real medical condition: The clinical term is “hematohidrosis.” “Around the sweat glands, there are multiple blood vessels in a net-like form.” Under the pressure of great stress the vessels constrict. Then as the anxiety passes “the blood vessels dilate to the point of rupture. The blood goes into the sweat glands.” As the sweat glands are producing a lot of sweat, it pushes the blood to the surface - coming out as droplets of blood mixed with sweat.1
What was happening to Jesus was that he was stressed to the max, in his own words “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." His disciples were themselves exhausted from sorrow and sleeping. Jesus found them asleep and woke them again he said, “…pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” The word fall could also be read as enter.
What was it that could tempt the disciples
1)In the days before this time, at the last supper, Jesus had verbally handed over the kingdom of God to his disciples, he conferred it to them, so that they may “sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel”. (Luke 22:29) just prior to this they had “a dispute among them as to which of them was considered the greatest.”
But Jesus had told them that they were not to be like other rulers, But “Instead the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luke 22:26)
Was Jesus praying that his disciples would not fall into the temptation to become like so many in charge? Like the rulers we see in places like Syria oppressing their people, Like Joseph Kony the war criminal who abducts children and forces them to be his soldier slaves. Lording it over instead of serving the sheep of the folk could be a very real temptation to the leaders of the church.
2)The temptation that the disciples were to fall into could also have been that of Judas who was perhaps trying to force the hand of God to intervene in the ministry of Jesus. To see this Messiah rise up in a traditionally expected way as a warrior prince, bringing a war against Rome and freedom for the nation of Israel.
3)Or the temptation that Peter encountered in his denial that he ever knew Jesus. Jesus even told Peter “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen you brothers.” (Luke 22:32)
4) Or could it be the temptation to retreat from the words of Jesus and go back to their nets, go back to the old trades that they had come from. To simply turn away to something easier? We read in John’s gospel how “The disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews.” (John 20:part 19) When the resurrected Jesus stood among them.
Whatever the temptations were, Jesus knew that they were to come and his instruction was, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
Is this a prayer that you pray? Is this something that you find beneficial? Do you continue to be tempted? I ask because this is as much a prayer for us today as it was for the disciples.
What tempts, I can run off a huge list for myself and I guess that we can all list off things. Tasty food not that there is something wrong with tasty food but too much tasty food; The pleasure of being in control rather than handing the control over to God, the ability so spend sometimes beyond our means. The desire to hold onto all of our cash rather than see it as a gift from God to be used wisely, given for his purposes; lying in bed perhaps rather than being the part of the body of Christ that we are here on a Sunday. Or maybe it’s something else that is more important than our part in the body of Christ. The temptation to work for more money in a less demanding job, than the place where God has you ministering? I could stand here listing off stuff that tempts us until the cow’s come home, I’m sure that you have your own list!
Jesus knew that things would have the disciples enter into temptation; he knew that they were able to pray that they didn’t fall into temptation
Jesus himself had been tempted by the devil. After he had resisted the temptations that were placed in front of him, he began to preach.
Luke gave us a fairly graphic account of what Jesus went through before his crucifixion; in that place at the garden. Jesus went onto fulfill The Father’s will and took upon himself the burden of the sins of the world.
So what of us when we are tempted?
The apostle Paul tells us “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” It appears that prayer is concrete as part of that way out! (repeat)
What we do know from experience is that we will be tempted. As we remember the love of God for us through the sacrifice of Jesus, of his love and his agony he was willing to go to the cross that we might be set free. While the cup of suffering was his to drink; the pouring out of his blood brought freedom for those who would confess him as Lord, laying all their burdens at the foot of the cross, and believing in their hearts that he was raised from the dead.
We are wise to pray that we are not tempted because when we give into temptation, the result is sin and sin, when full grown gives birth to death. We are to pray that we will not fall into temptation.
Let me take you back to the lake where you are found fishing, Jesus is calling you, calling you from what might be a day of days, to follow him the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.
Calling you to pray that you might not enter into temptation, calling you to be one who is a fisher of men and women. Calling you to be one who would lead them to the freedom. The Freedom that comes only through Christ’s love and agony, from the sacrifice he made on that cross.
Maybe you are a person who struggles with prayer, with temptation, we have a place here of prayer, a place to come and speak with God, to lay down your burdens and give it over to God. As the music team comes please feel free to come and pray.