THE LAST TEMPTATION OF JESUS
Beneath the silver starlight and the soft glow of the full moon lies the sleeping city of Jerusalem. The hour is late and the narrow streets and alleys lie quietly in the deep shadows, broken only by the muffled sound of the passing of a small company of men.
There are 12 of them. They are Jesus and eleven of His disciples. Judas has gone away. Even now, he is before the high priest, arranging the betrayal of his Master. Orders are being given and guards are being assembled. Members of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of Israel, are being roused and gathered. Before this night is over, all of these diverse groups will come together.
Jesus and His disciples make their way past the silent Temple compound, through the gates of the city, descending down into the Kidron Valley on the east side of the city. They cross over the dark bubbling waters of the Kidron Brook which has swelled from the spring rains. They find themselves on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives. And now, Jesus speaks.
THE PLACE OF TESTING
And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. (Luke 22:39).
The process used to extract olive oil was a laborious one. Whole olives were put into a circular stone basin in which a millstone sat. A donkey or other animal was then harnessed to the millstone and walked in a circle, rolling the stone over the olives and cracking them.
The cracked olives were scooped up into bags, which were then stacked beneath a large stone column ó a gethsemane. The enormous weight forced the precious oil to drip from the fruit into a groove and on into a pit at the base of the gethsemane, from which it was collected.
Luke tells us that this place was one customarily frequented by Jesus. Judas knows this and is going to be bringing the enemies of Jesus here to betray Him. The location of the upper room had been a closely guarded secret. But this location on the slopes of the Mount of Olives was well-known to him. Jesus has made it clear that He will be found here on this night.
Matthew and Mark both tell us that the name of the place was Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36; Mark 14:32). The name means "oil press." There are still several old olive trees along the slopes of the Mountain that gets its name from these trees. John tells us that it was a garden (John 18:1). That likely would have made it a walled enclosure.
And when He arrived at the place, He said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation." (Luke 22:40).
Jesus is aware that Judas knows exactly where to come and find Him. He knows that this is a time of temptation and He knows that the time of His betrayal is at hand.
But before the betrayal, there will be a battle. Not a battle of swords or spears. A spiritual battle. Among these quiet trees, the forces of darkness are going to be pitted against the Son of Man. The fate of mankind hangs in the balance. Not since the fall of the human race in the Garden of Eden has such a crucial battle taken place.
Adam and Eve had been placed into a Garden
The Second Adam comes to a garden
The first Adam was tempted
The Second Adam is tempted
The first Adam sinned as a result of his temptation and plunged the world into sin and death
The Second Adam will depart from the garden in victory and shall go forth to free the world from the curse of sin and death
Jesus is going to be tempted. But He is not the only one who will be tempted. His disciples will be tempted, too. And they are warned to pray ahead of time in preparation for that temptation.
A PETITION OF REMOVAL
And He withdrew from them about a stoneís throw, and He knelt down and began to pray,42 saying, "Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done." (Luke 22:41-42).
Jesus prays that the Father might "remove this cup" from Him. He knew that His death was at hand. And it scared Him to death.
To what does this "cup" refer? The mention of the cup takes us back to His own use of the cup at the Last Supper, just a few hours earlier. The cup in that ritual pointed to His shed blood. It was a sign of the sacrifice. As such, it has some Old Testament implications.
For not from the east, nor from the west,
Nor from the desert comes exaltation;
But God is the Judge;
He puts down one, and exalts another.
For a CUP is in the hand of the LORD, and the wine foams;
It is well mixed, and He pours out of this;
Surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.
But as for me, I will declare it forever;
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
And all the horns of the wicked He will cut off,
But the horns of the righteous will be lifted up. (Psalm 75:6-10).
Notice the reference to a cup in the hand of the Lord. As it is poured out, the wicked are called to drink the contents of the cup. This implies that the cup has reference to the punishment of God against the wicked.
Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself!
Arise, O Jerusalem,
You who have drunk from the Lordís hand the CUP of His anger;
The chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs. (Isaiah 51:17).
For thus the Lord, the God of Israel, says to me, "Take this cup of the wine of wrath from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it.
Then I took the cup from the Lordís hand, and made all the nations drink, to whom the Lord sent me:18 Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, and its kings and its princes, to make them a ruin, a horror, a hissing, and a curse, as it is this day (Jeremiah 25:15-18).
In each of these passages we are given the image of a cup of the wine of wrath from the Lord which is to be drunk by those who have been rebellious toward God. In light of these passages, the reference to Jesus drinking from the cup of the Lord is striking.
The cup includes all that he shall undergo on the cross. The beatings. The crucifixion. The mockery and shame. The identification with the sins of men. The wrath of a holy God judging the sins of the world. This was the cup of hell.
Jesus had known from the beginning why He had come to the world. It was for this purpose. It was to pay for the sins of the world. It was so that the righteous judgment of God might be poured out upon Him. He is going to be judged for the sins of the world. The sins of the world are going to be credited to Him. God will judge Him as though He is a guilty sinner.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21).
But now, as Jesus prays in the garden, He comes face to face with the full impact of that cup. He who is without sin is going to be made sin. He who is holy and righteous is going to be identified with all of the defilement and transgression of a world in rebellion against God. He is going to be judged as a guilty sinner. All of the anger and the condemnation and the wrath of a righteous God will come against Him. For the first time in history, the Son of God is going to experience death. Not just physical death, though He will experience that. He is also going to be subjected to spiritual death. He will be separated from the Father. This had never happened before. And the sudden impact of this hits Him like a physical blow.
And so, He turns to the Lord in prayer. He asks that this cup might be taken from Him. He asks that the hour might pass by Him. But He supersedes this request with the Fatherís will.
There is a tenderness in this request. It is addressed from a Son to His Father. God is very big and He is very powerful. He is the sovereign Creator of everything. And yet, in all of His infinite power and glory, He cares for me. And for you. That means anything big enough to trouble me is big enough to trouble the Father. There is no problem too big. And there is no problem too small.
"Yet not My will, but Thine be done" (22:42). Even in His request, Jesus remains in submission to the will of the Father.
In coming to the earth, He had emptied Himself, being made into the image of a man and taking on human flesh. Born as a man, He continued throughout His life to possess the very character of God. But He relinquished His divine prerogatives.
Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
When Jesus performed miracles, it was not done by His own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit working through Him. When He taught, it was not His own teaching, but truths that had been given to him from the Father. Even His knowledge of the future was limited to that which was revealed to Him by God.
His entire life was characterized by submission and trust in God. This is an example for us. This is how we are to live. In this day when independence is exalted and praised, we are to live a life of DEPENDENCE upon the Lord.
And so, Jesus prays to the Father. It is a prayer of faith. It is a prayer of total dependence and submission to God. And in the silence, the Father answers the prayer of His Son.
THE PROVISION FROM HEAVEN
Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. (Luke 22:43).
Verses 43 and 44 do not appear in several of the oldest Greek manuscripts. Since they do appear in quite a few others, I am going to treat them as a part of the original text.
Notice that the passage does not say that the angel CAME to Jesus. It says that he APPEARED to Him. This wording might very well be significant. Angels are involved in our prayers. They are ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14). They arenít always visible, but they are present nevertheless.
Why did this angel appear? He appeared as an encouragement to Jesus. In the midst of His terrible loneliness, the Father sent this heavenly messenger to comfort Him. But that is not all. This angel also appears as an encouragement to you. He appeared so that you can know that the power of heaven is available to you, even when everything appears to go wrong.
THE PASSION OF JESUS
And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. (Luke 22:44).
Luke is the only Gospel account to add this detail. It points to the pathos and the passion of Jesus. The greatness of His agony in the garden and the fervency of His prayers are reflected in this phenomenon of extreme sweat.
Do you recall the first mention of sweat in the Bible? It is in Genesis when the curse is pronounced upon mankind. Adam is told, "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground" (Genesis 3:19). Sweat was a sign of the curse of sin. And now as the Second Adam prepares to remove that curse, there manifests upon His body a great sweat.
Luke says that His sweat became like drops of blood. That is not to say that Jesus started bleeding. A number of commentaries have pointed to a medical explanation that in cases of extreme duress the capillaries under the skin can burst and begin to seep blood from the pores. But Luke does not say that Jesus was sweating blood. He uses a simile. He says that Jesus was sweating so much that it was as if He had been bleeding sweat. The sweat was pouring off Him.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with ENDURANCE the race that is set before us,
Do you see the word that is repeated throughout this passage? It is the word "endure." Jesus is to be our pattern. He endured the cross and the agony and the shame for the sake of what would come as a result and we are called to do the same.
Pain hurts. And it is hard to stand up against hostility. But it is easier when we remember that they were hostile to Jesus first. When you go to Him, you go to someone who has been there and done that. You go to someone who understands.
A CALL TO PRAYER
And when He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow,46 and said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation." (Luke 22:45-46).
The hour was late. Midnight had come and gone. Jesus rises from His place of prayer and comes to the place where He has left His disciples. They are asleep. But it is more than merely the sleep of weariness. Luke tells us that they were sleeping from sorrow. They had heard some sober news from Jesus and it had bothered them a lot.
Jesus warns them of the coming temptation. It will be a temptation with a way of escape. And the only way of escape will be through previous prayer.
There is a lesson here for us. We are often taken by surprise in the midst of a testing. The outcome will be dependent upon our relationship with the Lord. This is the alertness which is required of us. It is an alertness of faith and of prayer. Many years later, Peter would write of the need for believers to remain alert.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8).
The disciples learned a crucial lesson in Gethsemane. It was a lesson of alertness of faith. This is the only way in which we can resist the attack of Satan. Notice what Peter says in the next verse.
But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. (1 Peter 5:9).
How can we resist the attack of the devil? He is big and strong and we are little and weak. It is only by being firm in faith. It is only by continuing to depend upon the lord. We may be little and we may be weak, but we worship a God who is very big and who is very strong.