Luke 22:40-43   On reaching [the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives], [Jesus] said to [his disciples], “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.

As I read these verses I thought about the fact that Jesus had included in the model prayer he taught his disciples in response to their request, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1-4), the words, “And lead us not into temptation.”  Given that Satan is most effective in his attacks on us when he operates in a subtle way by ‘masquerading as an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14), it is important that the prayer, ‘lead us not into temptation’ is constantly on our lips.

Satan knows that he can have greater success in his tempting, not by getting us actively to oppose God’s revealed will, but rather by getting us to do God’s will in our own way instead of in God’s way.  This is how he approached Jesus at the very beginning of his earthly ministry: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3).  What he is saying in effect is: “You have come into the world to save; there is a vast number of poor, hungry people around you, and you will be able to save them and get them to follow you if you put food in their stomachs.”  We even see the validity of this suggestion in the sequel to Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 in John 6:14-15.

It is a similar situation with the other two temptations.  What Satan is saying to Jesus in effect is, “Forget this idea of ‘saving’ people by dying on a cross.  That will never take on – just scratch them where they are itching, impress them with ‘signs and wonders’ (jump off the pinnacle of the temple and survive) or compromise a bit with the way things are (accept the fact that I have established myself as the ‘Prince of this World’ and work in cooperation with me instead of against me).

Sadly, throughout Church history, Satan has had some ‘success’ with this strategy with his emphasis on a ‘social gospel’, on the ‘signs and wonders’ movement, or on compromising with the culture – all to avoid the offence of the message of the cross.  It is ‘tempting’ for us to just see temptation in terms of blatant sin without recognising – and, with God’s help, resisting – Satan’s much more subtle, and therefore more effective, strategy!  Let us constantly “pray that [we] will not fall into temptation”.  We notice that Jesus himself, just after he had said this to his disciples, really struggled with the challenge of the cross, but, in answer to his own prayer, “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him” – in his resolve to face the cross for us!
– Bruce Christian