Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
"Father, remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what you will"

Gospel reading: Matthew 26:31-46

31 Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of me this night; for it is written, `I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of  the flock will be scattered.' 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." 33 Peter declared to him, "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away." 34 Jesus said to him, "Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." 35 Peter said to him, "Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you." And so said all the disciples. 36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsem'ane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go yonder and pray." 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zeb'edee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done." 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man  is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand."

Meditation:  Are you prepared for trial and testing? Jesus was put to the test at the beginning of his public ministry when Satan offered him power, position, and all the kingdoms under his dominion (Luke 4:1-13). Jesus had to wrestle with temptation and now he warns Peter that he, too, will have to struggle for his very life and soul. Peter was a courageous man.  He gave up his business and everything he had to follow Jesus.  Now he promises Jesus that he will go with him through any trouble, be it imprisonment or violent death.  Satan knows both our weakness and our strength.  And he often tests us in our strength to make us fall.  Why is that the case?  Where we are strongest we are often over-confident and unprepared with our guard down.  Peter was passionately loyal to his Master, but he was unprepared for the test that was to come.  Jesus not only warns Peter, but prays for him, and then calls him in turn to be a source of help and strength to his brothers when they face temptation.  We often cannot help someone in their weakness and failure until we have suffered similar trial and shame.  Because Jesus "himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).

Jesus did his best to prepare his disciples for what was to come -- his betrayal, rejection by his own people, and violent death on the cross.  This was to fulfill what the scriptures and the prophets had foretold, that is was necessary for the Messiah to suffer before he entered into his glory.  Jesus was tempted like us in everything but sin.  Now he undergoes the worst temptation yet to face him, to accept or to reject the agony of death on a cross. Jesus had the power and the means to escape defeat and death at the hands of his enemies. But he choose the way of the cross for our sake and for our salvation.  How do you face opposition, failure, trial, and rejection?  Do you look to God for strength to overcome adversity with faith, trial with hope, and rejection with love?  Jesus went to his favorite place of prayer, the Garden of Gethsemane, to face such trial and testing.  In prayer to his Father in heaven he found the strength he needed, both to embrace the Father's will and to accept the suffering that must come his way in order to carry out that will.  What is the cross that you and I must face each and every day?  When my will "crosses" with God's will, then his will must be done.  Are you ready to take up your cross to follow the Lord Jesus?

In the Lord's prayer Jesus instructs his disciples to pray that we might not be "led into temptation".  Sin results from our consenting to temptation.  God wants to set us free from evil.  We are engaged in a batteld between "flesh and spirit", and so we must ask God for the Spirit of discernment and strength that might not take the way that leads to sin.  The Holy Spirit helps us to discern between trials that are necessary and good for our spiritual growth (Romans 5:3-5, 2 Tim. 3:12), and temptation which leads to sin and spiritual death (James 1:14-15).  Discernment unmaskes the lie of temptation which makes sin look good and desireable, when in reality its fruit is death.  That is why Satan is called the "father of lies".  We must resist his lies and cling to the truth so that we may choose what is good rather than evil.  If we decide in our heart that we want to choose what is good and to obey God, then God will surely give us the strength and help we need to overcome sin.  Paul the Apostle tells us: "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Cor. 10:13).  We will only see victory in our struggle against temptation to sin if we take it to the Lord in prayer.  It was by prayer that Jesus overcame his tempter in the struggle of his agony.  We, too, must be vigilant in prayer and ask God for the strength and perseverance to be faithful to him to the end.

Satan will try his best to induce us to choose our will over God's will.  If he cannot induce us to apostasize or to sin mortally, he will then try to get us to make choices that will lead us away from what God wants for us.  Jesus was tempted like us and he overcame not by his own human strength but by the grace and strength which his Father gave to him.  He had to renounce his will for the will of his Father.  He succeeded because he wanted to please his Father and he trusted that his Father would give him the strength to overcome the obstacles that stood in the way. The Lord gives us his Holy Spirit to be our strength and guide and our consoler in temptation and testing. God the Father is ready to give us all that we need to live in his way of love and righteousness.  Do you rely on the Lord for your strength and help?

"Lord, your word is life and joy for me. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may have the strength and courage to embrace your will in all things and to renounce whatever is contrary to it."

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 (c) 2002 Don Schwager