Temptation

The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.

 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,  “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (Luke 22:38–46)

I can resist anything but temptation, so goes the old joke. What is temptation? Temptation is the desire to do something we shouldn’t. It needs to be noticed that we can only be tempted—enticed—to do something that we would want to do. If you dislike liver, for instance, the offer of a steaming plate of liver and onions will do nothing for you. You won’t be tempted at all. But change out that plate of liver for something you crave—for instance a big slice of chocolate cake—and suddenly you are tempted.

Temptation is not a sin. Only giving in to the temptation is sin. And whether something is a sin is sometimes entirely dependent upon the context. After all, there is a time and place for chocolate cake.

Jesus told his disciples to pray that they wouldn’t give into temptation. Why did he ask them to pray for such protection at that particular moment? Because it had been a long day, it was late at night, and the one thing the disciples really wanted at that particular moment was something that in itself was usually a good thing: sleep. So they needed to resist their natural urge. Instead, Jesus needed them to pray for him, for what he was about to face on the cross. But the disciples didn’t understand. They didn’t know what Jesus needed from them and so they repeatedly gave into their temptation.

We don’t always recognize the temptation we need protection from—until it is too late.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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