Today’s reading comes from Luke 22:39-62 (ESV):
Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 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. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.
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.”
Peter Denies Jesus
54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And 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.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”
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.”
60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And 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.
As humans, we are all subject to our emotions. They control our immediate reactions to the many situations of our lives, and shape our goals and desires in the long term. Some people, including myself, think that we can control our emotions with right thinking, and yet time and again we are proven to be deluded. In frustration, people commonly bemoan the idea that we cannot control what we think and what we do, and that to be human is to embrace our desires and discover ourselves through them, rather than to seek to shape them.
In this passage, we see Jesus earnestly pray for deliverance from his own temptation and desires, even as he instructs his incompetent disciples to pray for deliverance from their own. In the two stories immediately following, Judas, in some sense the “worst” disciple, betrays Jesus for desire of money (v. 47-53), and Peter, in some sense the “best” disciple, betrays Jesus for desire of his own security, out of fear of association (v. 53-62). Thus, from the worst to the best, Jesus’s disciples fall to temptation, despite temptation being the sole thing in the Garden that they were instructed by Jesus to pray to avoid.
Pause a moment to think about that.
These men, who for almost three years have followed Jesus, learned from him, eaten the same food, and witnessed his miracles, failed to pray to avoid falling to temptation, and as a result follow up with perhaps the greatest acts of infidelity of their earthly lives, in betraying and denying Jesus.
When I pray to God, in my mind’s eye I am a good Christian, well set on the path to salvation and sanctification, pursuing God and getting closer to the person that he wants me to be. I think of prayer as communicating with God, as asking God for help and for growth and thanking him for what he has already done. Yet, very rarely do I think of prayer as actively changing my desires and emotions, as giving up to God control of the worst parts of me: my sinful unchecked reactions, my fears, and my temptations.
What this passage teaches me to remember is that God is a God who changes our desires, and takes our crimson sin and washes us whiter than snow. Temptation can look different for each one of us, and yet Jesus tells us all, from the worst to the best of us, to pray that we might not enter into temptation, that God would change our heart. May that we hear this call to pray and to obey, that we can grow closer to looking like our beloved Lord Jesus, who did the same and gained the strength and resolve to endure the cross.
Daniel Yue ’16 is a Physics Concentrator in Lowell House.