Watch and Pray

“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go over there and pray.’ And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled… ‘Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.'”  Matthew 26: 36-37, 41

Jesus’ early ministry was coming to an end. He was facing the final test and “although He was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).  Jesus was obedient, but his obedience came at great cost–through suffering. As Jesus went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked his three closest friends, Peter, James and John, to accompany him, to watch and pray. Aren’t we the same? When we are going through our most difficult trials, we want our loved ones close at hand. Even though Jesus knew their frailty, and had already predicted Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial, He still wanted them with Him.

Jesus warned them to watch and pray so they would not be tempted. He knew their weakness. He also knew His own weakness. This part of the passage is so hard to grasp– Jesus was fully man and fully God. During his time on earth He faced temptation, and I believe His most difficult struggle was on the night before He was betrayed, before He was taken by the authorities. Jesus’ prayer “let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:42) illuminates His struggle. He struggled with His destiny and surrendered to His Father – “not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26: 39). He had a choice–and He chose to give His life for us, to take our penalty, to die for our sins.

We too have a choice. We struggle against temptation, but unlike Jesus, we do not always win the battle. We are tempted daily to live for ourselves, to please ourselves, to blend in. For me it’s a daily struggle to “… in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2: 3).  Jesus knows our struggle. He has been there. What an amazing truth to ponder. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

In our daily attempts to live for Jesus, we can be assured that it is possible to overcome the temptations that sometimes threaten to overwhelm us. It is possible because of our high priest. Jesus enables us to live for Him and avoid temptation when we “watch and pray.”




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