Skip to comments."Lead Us Not into Temptation" (Sermon for Holy Thursday, on the Lord's Prayer and Luke 22:1-46)
Posted on 04/17/2014 10:57:35 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
Lead Us Not into Temptation (The Lords Prayer; Luke 22:1-46)
During this Lenten season weve been doing a series on the Lords Prayer called Lord, Teach Us to Pray. And thats exactly what our Lord does on this Holy Thursday evening. He teaches us to pray. Thats what he instructs us to do, thats what he gives us an example of doing, and, even more than that, he prays for us.
In particular, on this night Jesus instructs his disciples to pray for strength in the face of temptation. Pray that you may not enter into temptation, Jesus tells them more than once. It was a word they needed to hear. Its a word we need to hear, also. For we too face temptation in our life, and repeatedly so.
And so it is fitting, as we work our way through the Lords Prayer, that tonight we should come to the Sixth Petition, Lead Us Not into Temptation. So let us go now, with our Lord and his disciples--let us go to dark Gethsemane and there learn from Jesus Christ to pray.
This Thursday evening was a night filled with trial and testing and temptation. It started innocently enough, or so it seemed. Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Passover meal together, a joyous occasion, commemorating how the Lord God had brought his people Israel out of bondage in Egypt. But there were dark doings going on behind the scenes on this night. One of the twelve, Judas, had agreed to betray Jesus later that night and hand him over to his enemies, who hated him. Satan had entered into Judas, first tempting him, and then, when Judas sinfully gave himself over to the temptation, Satan pretty much had Judas under his thumb.
So those wheels are turning, even as Jesus and the disciples are celebrating the Passover. And Jesus knows this. He knows hes about to be betrayed and handed over to suffer and to die. And yet, in Gods great plan of redemption, this very suffering will be the fulfillment of what the Passover foreshadowed. For there is a greater bondage, a worse enslavement, that people need to be delivered from. It is the bondage of sin and death. Satan would have us all enslaved, as Pharaoh had the Israelites of old. But God put in motion a plan to lead his people out of bondage. Just as the blood of the Passover lamb marked the houses of the Israelites to be spared from death, so the blood of Jesus marks us to be spared from eternal death. This is the blood of the holy Son of God, which he would shed on the cross within a matter of hours, and which he gives to his disciples--and to us--in his Holy Supper. This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Yes, a new covenant, a new relationship with God, established in the blood of Christ, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
Soon we will see how much Christs disciples need that forgiveness of sins. For they will all fall away, even the ones who think they are standing the strongest. Jesus tells them that one of them is about to betray him. They begin to question which one of them it might be. But before long, this question gets sidetracked into a discussion of one of the disciples favorite topics, which was, which one of them was the greatest.
A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. Imagine that. Theyve just celebrated the beloved Passover meal. Jesus has just instituted the Blessed Sacrament of his Body and Blood for them. Jesus solemnly tells them that he, their Master, is about to be betrayed and handed over into suffering and death. And what do they do? They start to squabble among themselves as to whos the greatest, whos the best, whos the most important among them. Internal squabbling in the church, Gods people fighting about whos in charge, when they should be fixing their eyes on Jesus and the salvation he brings--this is nothing new. Its why we need to pray that we do not fall to this temptation. Its why we need the forgiveness that Jesus goes to the cross for and that he gives us in his Sacrament. But I am among you as the one who serves, our Lord says.
The trials and testings and temptations are not over. Judas has succumbed. Satan has entered him. Whos next on Satans wish list? How about the disciple who always seems to be the spokesman for the group, the lead disciple, if you will, namely, Simon Peter? Yeah, Satan has his eye on you, Simon. Earlier you had tried to dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem, when he said that he would suffer and die there. And Jesus had to rebuke you, saying, Get behind me, Satan. Now, Simon Peter, Satan would have another go at you.
But Jesus also has his eye on you, Peter--for your good. He will not let you fall completely away. Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. But Peter thinks he doesnt need that kind of help. Theres no way he, of all people, would ever shrink away in cowardice and fear--or so he thinks. Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death. Well, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall. In other words, dont be so cocksure of yourself, Peter. Indeed, before the cock crows twice, you shall deny me thrice.
Dear friends, how about you? Are there times when you have come home from church and you think youre pretty strong in the faith, and then the next day--or maybe even later the same day--you fall back into a sin youve committed before and you thought you werent going to do again? By your words or your actions, do you deny that you know Jesus? Well, welcome to the club. Simon Peter is not only the president, hes also a member. Dear friends, at times like those, Satan is desiring to sift you like wheat. But thank God, Jesus has prayed for you that your faith may not fail. Turn and repent, like the Lord led Peter to do. Jesus will restore you to fellowship and to service.
So Jesus takes the disciples out to the Mount of Olives, to Gethsemane, the place where the oil press is. Gethsemane means oil press. And like olives placed under the grindstone until oil is pressed out, so Jesus will endure the arduous pressure and agony of this night. What does he do in the face of this very real struggle? He prays. He turns to his heavenly Father in prayer. While according to his human nature Jesus would well prefer to not have to experience the bitter cup of suffering, if there were any other way possible to achieve the salvation of mankind--even so, Jesus willingly yields that desire to the greater goal of accomplishing the mission that the Father sent him on. Thy will be done, Jesus prays, echoing the prayer he taught his disciples to pray.
And as he prays, Jesus also tells his disciples to pray: Pray that you may not enter into temptation. If our Lord himself prays at his time of testing, how much more do we need to pray! Pray that you may not enter into temptation. Temptation is all around us. The devil, the world, our sinful flesh--so many things within and without would take us off track, would take our eyes off Jesus. Therefore Christ would have us watch and pray, to take up our full spiritual armor. For, make no mistake, we are in a battle. The Christian life is a life of struggle, an ordeal, with forces pressing down on us, like were those olives in the oil press. Will we give up on God? When financial adversity hits, or sickness, or the death of a loved one, will we despair of Gods goodness? Will we listen to the siren song of this world, which would allure us with pleasant thoughts of indulging our pleasures--a happy life--and ignoring the more difficult path of life in the church? Will we give up on Christs church, thinking we can go it on our own? Will we sit and stew in bitterness and unforgiveness, when we have something against another Christian? These are all temptations that we Christians face. We face these things, each one of us does, in one form or another. How we need Gods help and his strengthening to overcome these temptations!
And as Luther explains in the Catechism: Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory. Yes, we do. And we pray this petition, Lead us not into temptation--we pray this in confidence, knowing that our Lord Jesus Christ has indeed won the victory for us. He endured the oil press of Gethsemane on this night, and, tomorrow, the cross of Calvary. Even there, on the cross, Satan, speaking through the mockers, will try to get Jesus to give up on his mission: If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross. But Jesus would not yield. He stayed the course. He fulfilled his mission. And the result--the result is astounding and wonderful, and it is Gods gift to you tonight: Forgiveness for your failure; receive that forgiveness anew tonight in the Blessed Sacrament. Access to God in prayer in your times of temptation; yes, strength in the face of temptation. And eternal victory over all your foes, Satan and death included.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Holy Thursday evening go to dark Gethsemane, and there you will see the answer to all your prayers. Hes the one praying for you tonight, namely, Jesus Christ, your Savior.
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it. They said to him, Where will you have us prepare it? He said to them, Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples? And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there. And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes. And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed! And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.
A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. Peter said to him, Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death. Jesus said, I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.
And he said to them, When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything? They said, Nothing. He said to them, But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: And he was numbered with the transgressors. For what is written about me has its fulfillment. And they said, Look, Lord, here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough.
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, Pray that you may not enter into temptation. And he withdrew from them about a stones throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.
Thank you for this beautiful post. It is good that we reflect on the suffering of the Christ and the reason for it. None of us deserve the gift of salvation but we have it for the asking because Jesus paid the price for us. If we can remember this every day, we can truly follow Him.
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