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Overcoming Temptation — Lessons from Gesthemane, Part 2
How Jesus Triumphed Over Trial

August 07, 2017

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:15-16 (NASB Strong’s)

In Part 1 of this series, we learned that Jesus’ suffered in the garden of Gesthemane, not as God, but as a man and established just how severe His trial was. In this Part, we will discover the resources He brought to bear to overcome it.

In His humanity, Jesus was like every other person who has ever confronted temptation, both in His liabilities and in His resources. Although Jesus was, in His incarnation, both God and man He was not God in man, so that His human nature could not call upon His divine nature for strength. 

This is as it must be for it is only if Jesus were “tempted in all things as we are” that He could “sympathize with our weaknesses” and become our “merciful and faithful high priest”. Thus, far being “easy”, as the quote from C.S. Lewis might suggest, we saw that Jesus’ trial in the Garden was so grave and His emotional agony so severe that it nearly cost Him His life: He was “grieved … to the point of death”.

So, how did Jesus prevail?

Though this is not the only thing that Jesus ever did to overcome temptation, the final thing he did—at the point of temptation—was to embrace His suffering, seek His Father’s will, and turn to His Father in prayer for the strength to obey. It was His love for the Father, the striking honesty and humility of His suffering and the intensity and single-minded focus of His prayer that were key to transforming Jesus’ resolve. 

In His divinity, the sinless Son of God could not bear the thought of becoming sin—being separated from the perfect love of His Father and instead bearing His Father’s infinite wrath against sin in the place of those whom the Father would redeem. It is a holy sorrow we cannot begin to comprehend. In His humanity, Jesus feared He could not bear that burden and asked the Father whether there were any other way to accomplish His will. 

There is always a cost to obedience and Jesus suffered because He struggled to do His Father’s will against the temptation of His human nature to seek the path of least discomfort. But instead of resenting or rebelling against His Father, Jesus’ love for the Father overcame His self-regard and He appealed to and petitioned His Father for the strength to do His Father’s will.

When it was clear that no other means were available, Jesus implored the Father not to change His will but to strengthen Jesus’ own. In intimate, persistent, heart wrenching, agonizing, exhausting and, ultimately, self-sacrificing prayer, Jesus sought His Father’s strength to do His Father’s will. Kneeling, He first cried “My Father”, then as His Son He implored in childlike intimacy and dependence, Abba (“Daddy”), and finally in prostration as His devoted Suffering Servant, Jesus prayed with such fervency He broke the capillaries in His face so that the sweat of His prayers became mixed with blood. 

The more deeply He was tempted, the more intimately did Jesus commune with and seek His Father’s strength. 

Jesus followed the very advice He offered to His disciples and which they ignored at terrible cost: “keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation.” The reason was the very one with which He was then wrestling: that although “the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.” Incredibly, this included our Lord Himself. 

Spiritual rebirth gives us the ability to desire holiness but it does not automatically bestow the strength to resist temptation. 

Jesus’ ordeal in Gesthemane shows that perseverance is anything but a passive, effortless or natural process. It is a supernatural one that requires the strength of God sought in persistent, profound and pervasive prayer.

Finally, undergirding Jesus’ prayer was a rich and intimate understanding of His Father’s attributes, character, plan, promises and purposes gained through His knowledge of Scripture. In another mystery of the incarnation, Jesus set aside certain aspects of divine knowledge so that His human nature came to understand much about His Father in the same way we all do: through the Word. Because He knew the Father, Jesus had total confidence in the Father. In submitting His will to the Father, Jesus knew that the Father would grant Him the strength to do His will.

In His humanity, our Lord was like every other person who has ever confronted temptation, with one exception—He triumphed. Because He was as weak as we are, this means that we can be as strong as He was. 

Why, then, do we so often fail?

We turn to that question next. 

 

 

 

 

 

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