Posts Tagged ‘Judas’

During times of prayer I’ve often been reminded of the scripture, “watch and pray, lest you fall into temptation”.  As I re-read that passage, I got a renewed sense of what Jesus was saying.  It seems that He was trying to warn the Apostles that something was about to come against them, but they couldn’t seem to grasp the magnitude of it.  Despite all that Jesus had told them about what must happen to Him, they remained remarkably unaware. 

He didn’t just ask them to pray with Him, He asked them to watch as well.  What was it that He was encouraging them to see?  One might guess that it was to look for those who Jesus understood would be coming for Him, but in judging Jesus’ reaction to Peter’s response, it seems unlikely that He was asking them to stand guard. 

This wasn’t the first time Jesus had spoken of watching and praying.  In the parable of the fig tree He had told them of a snare that had been set for all who dwell on the earth, and exhorted them to always watch and pray, so that they may be counted worthy to escape the things to come.  He later singled out Peter and let him know that Satan had asked for him, that he might be sifted as wheat. 

I sense that Jesus picked those Apostles who were closest to Him, and the leaders amongst the twelve, because they were the ones most likely to understand.  He had previously expressed His exasperation at the lack of understanding amongst His disciples, but in preparation for this time He had painstakingly explained that He must be given over to death.  He wanted them to pray, so that their eyes would be opened to the significance of the events that were about to unfold.  But as the scripture says, they fell asleep. 

I believe that this is not only their story, but a representation of the church as a whole.  The Lord has been trying to warn us of things to come, but we’ve largely been asleep.  Like the Apostles on that night, our stomachs are full, it seems pretty quiet, and we’re largely unaware of the spiritual implications of what is going on around us.  Just as Jesus told them, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

So what is the temptation that Jesus was speaking of?  Was it a specific issue, or was it just temptation in general?  As we look at the scripture, we can get some sense of what was behind the spectrum of actions, and reactions that were occurring around Jesus in this time. 

It seems that Judas had fallen into the temptation to manipulate the circumstances for gain, while by drawing the sword, Peter took it upon himself to try to power his way through the situation in his own strength.  The other disciples fell to their fear, as they scattered, and abandoned this man that they had claimed to love.  Ultimately, Judas succumbed to despair and shame. 

The Temple Guard fell to the temptation to use the enemies’ tactics, as they came in the dark of night, and without just cause.  The High Priest, and the Sanhedrin were taken by their religious pride, their confidence in their own understanding, and their lust for power. 

Pilate succumbed to his fear of men, while the Israelites who gathered outside were caught up in the arrogance of the mob, as they shouted, “let His blood be on us and on our children”.  Finally, the Roman guards gave themselves over to the brutality that comes with unchecked power. 

As this scene unfolded, there was all variety of temptation to fall to, and we see just about everyone, other than Jesus, succumbing to it.  It is the same today as it was then.  We are falling into the same kinds of temptations.  Our tendencies to react, and respond are the same as theirs, and Jesus’ words still echo loudly.    

Of course Jesus didn’t give in to temptation, as He walked through the horrible reality of the cross.  The scripture says that Jesus despised the shame of the cross, that He agonized to the point that His sweat became like droplets of blood, and that He was sorrowful unto the point of death.  Yet while praying in the garden, He resolved not my will, but thine be done. 

We rationalize that He was the Son of God, and that this means it was somehow different for Him, but the scripture says that He was a man, who was tempted in all the same ways we are.  I would submit that through His times of prayer, He was fortified for the things to come. 

Throughout His ministry, we repeatedly see Jesus separating Himself from the crowd, and finding that quiet place to be with His Father.  He said He didn’t do anything that He didn’t see the Father do first, and I believe that it was in these times of prayer that He received the insight, and direction necessary for Him to fulfill His purpose. 

It was these private moments that allowed Jesus to maintain an eternal perspective on what was happening around Him, and so it is with us.  If we are to be fortified for the things to come, and not fall to the buffet of temptations that await us; if we hope to maintain an eternal perspective, and fulfill our purpose, we too must find the quiet place, where we can receive direction from God. 

It seems that the Western church has fallen into the cultural trend of having a very short attention span, and that the concept of prayer has largely given way to engaging speakers, drama teams, dancers, and power point presentations.  While none of those things is wrong necessarily, it seems like we’ve tried to make ourselves relevant to the world by imitating them.  We can pack the house for conferences, or plays, or concerts, but struggle to get anyone to get excited about a prayer meeting.  If there is too much of a lull in the action, we’re afraid that we will lose the crowd. 

As I consider the state of prayer within the church, I am reminded of the story of Jesus coming into the temple area, and overturning the tables of the money changers, and merchants.  I’ve heard it said that it was the corrupt practices of the merchants in the temple that angered Jesus, but Mark’s gospel account seems to indicate that it was the mere presence of commerce within the temple.  He not only confronted the money-changers, and vendors, but began to drive out those who were buying and selling, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 

I sense that Jesus saw this as a defilement of a sacred place, and that he abhorred that the focus had been taken off the Father.  This makes me wonder how Jesus views the blatant merchandizing, and enterprise that takes place within the church today.  His objection to those extra-curricular activities was that His Father’s house was to be a “house of prayer”. 

The question that looms is whether we are any closer to this today.  How many local churches can accurately claim to be a house of prayer?  If a church isn’t a house of prayer, what is it a house of?  If we are not a praying church, then what are we placing our hope in?  Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain.

Watch and pray, lest you fall to the temptation to focus on the seen realm (2 Cor. 4:18)

Watch and pray, lest you fall to hollow and deceptive philosophies which depend on human tradition (Col. 2:8)

Watch and pray, lest you fall to the temptation to do what is right in our own eyes (Matt 16:22-23)

Watch and pray, lest you give in to the impulse to take matters into your own hands (Luke 22:50-51)

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