When You Pray, Say: "Lead Us Not into Temptation"
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And [Jesus] 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 stone’s 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” (Luke 22:39-46).
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
On the night when He was betrayed the Lord institutes the Holy Sacrament of His Body and His Blood. His Supper. His last will and testament. A pure gift from Him that He promises is for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.
And then, He’s off to Gethsemane. A garden. A place of temptation. You remember Eden, don’t you? Another garden. Where Satan tempted Adam and Eve and mankind gave into the temptation and fell into sin. And now the Second Adam, Jesus, is in the Garden of Gethsemane. Tempted to not drink from the cup His Father has set before Him. The cup of bearing the world’s sin. The cup of bearing God’s wrath against the world’s sin. The cup of offering Himself as the all-sufficient atoning sacrifice.
In the Garden of Gethsemane your salvation is at stake. And Satan knows it. So does Jesus. And the temptation to avoid Good Friday is immense. “Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me,” Jesus prays. “Nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done.”
This is a big deal! You see, if there is no Good Friday, there is no salvation. There is no forgiveness—for you or for anyone! So Satan’s been working overtime to lead Jesus off the road to Good Friday. To avoid the Cross at all costs. To stop God’s kingdom from coming. To halt God’s will from being done. To stifle the hallowing of God’s name. And to prevent the forgiving of trespasses.
Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness after His Baptism. All of those temptations were intended to knock Jesus off the path to Good Friday. Satan failed. And so the old serpent left Jesus alone for a more opportune time.
But he went back to work at Caesarea Philippi. If you want to derail Jesus from Good Friday, then why not use an apostle? So Satan did. He used Peter as his mouth. Peter took Jesus aside and read Him the riot act: “All that suffering and dying talk is nonsense, Jesus! We won’t be having any of that! No way will we allow you to be a dead christ. Christs don’t die! Dead christs won’t do us any good!” And Jesus had to rebuke Peter: “Get behind me Satan!”
The pressure builds. The disciples argue about who will be the greatest this very night at the table where Jesus is among them as Servant of all. Soon Judas will arrive with soldiers to give Jesus the kiss of betrayal for some quick cash. All the while Peter, James, and John can’t stay awake and watch for one hour.
Tomorrow is Good Friday. The time to drink the cup. And as Jesus hangs on that cross Satan viciously attacks again! With a huge temptation—a temptation offered through the two robbers and the chief priests. Through them Satan hides and yet speaks: “Come down. Get off the cross. Save yourself!” “Let this Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe!”
Wow! A brilliant temptation! After all, Jesus came down from heaven so that sinners would believe in Him. And now, if He will just show some divine power… Gloriously descend from the cross… Miraculously hop right off and save Himself… “Do that Jesus and we promise—we’ll believe in you!”
In that temptation your salvation is at stake. For if Jesus would come down from that cross alive, your sin would not be atoned for. But Jesus will not give in. He stays put. He hangs fast. Until He dies and atonement made. Salvation achieved. Salvation won. Satan loses. His head is crushed. Death put to death. There is no condemnation for you. Jesus delivered you from all that. He drank the cup of the Father’s wrath to its fullest.
Jesus is our Great High Priest. He was tempted in every way as we are, but He did not sin. Then on the cross, He exchanged that perfect obedience and righteousness for your disobedience and sin. Christ’s resistance to temptation is your salvation. Therefore He teaches you to pray: “And lead us not into temptation.”
Throughout our series on the Lord’s Prayer, you have heard about what toil and labor is needed to keep all that you pray for and to persevere. This, however, is not done without weakness and stumbling. Although you have received forgiveness and a good conscience and are entirely acquitted, yet your life is of such a nature that you stand one day and fall the next. Therefore, even though you are declared righteous now and stand before God with a good conscience, you must continue praying that God would not allow you to fall again and yield to trials and temptations.
When you pray, say: “Lead us not into temptation.” Jesus is your help in times of temptation. And believe me, you need His help! For Satan and his allies have turned their attention to you! To deceive you. Into false belief especially after you’ve prayed: “forgive us our trespasses.”
This probably doesn’t come as a complete surprise to you: Although you have been born again and are accounted as righteous for the sake of Christ and His work of redemption, you are not free from temptation. And that temptation comes from three dangerous foes: the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh.
We dwell in the flesh and carry the old Adam with us like an ugly, malignant, conjoined twin. Our sinful nature exerts himself and encourages us daily to unchastity, laziness, gluttony and drunkenness, greed and deception, to defraud our neighbor and to overcharge him. In short, old Adam encourages us to have all kinds of evil lusts, which cling to us by nature and which are inflamed by society, and what we hear and see of other people.
The world joins as an ally, offending us in word and deed. It drives us to anger and impatience. In short, there is nothing but hatred and envy, hostility, violence and wrong, unfaithfulness, vengeance, cursing, slander, pride and haughtiness, with useless quest for honor, fame, and power. No one is willing to be the least. Everyone desires to sit at the head of the group.
Then comes along the devil, pushing and provoking in all directions. But he especially agitates matters that concern the conscience and spiritual affairs. He leads us to despise and disregard both God’s Word and works. He tears us away from faith, hope, and love, and he brings us into misbelief, false security, and stubbornness. Or, he leads us to despair, denial of God, and blasphemy. These are snares and nets, indeed, real fiery darts that are shot like poison into the heart, not by flesh and blood, but by the devil.
Satan’s most dangerous attacks go like this: “Jesus didn’t die for you! Your sins are too big for Him! He really doesn’t like you at all! He couldn’t care less about you.” All so that you despair of Jesus and His Good Friday salvation for you. To despise God’s Word. And turn to yourself or other false gods. So that you become arrogant and live in a false security that would end hellaciously!
Great and grievous, indeed, are these dangers and temptations, which every Christian must bear. You bear them even if you could somehow isolate yourselves from outside contact. Every hour that you are in this vile life, you are attacked on all sides, chased and hunted down. You are moved to cry out and to pray that God would not allow you to become weary and faint and to fall again into sin, shame, and unbelief. For otherwise it is impossible to overcome even the least temptation.
This, then, is what “lead us not into temptation” means. It refers to times when God gives you power and strength to resist the temptation. However, the temptation is not taken away or removed. While you live in the flesh and have the devil around you, no one can escape his temptation and lure. It can only mean that you must endure trials—indeed be engulfed in them. But we say this prayer so that you may not fall and be drowned in them.
To feel temptation is, therefore, a far different thing from consenting or yielding to it. We must all feel it, although not all in the same way. Some feel it in a greater degree and more severely than others. In general, the young most often suffer from temptations of the flesh. Afterward, when they reach mid-life and old age they feel it from the world. Those who are occupied with spiritual matters, that is, strong Christians, feel it from the devil. Such feeling, as long as it is against our will and we would rather be rid of it, can harm no one. For if we did not feel it, it could not be called a temptation. But it becomes sin when we consent to it, when we give it the reins and do not resist or pray against it.
Therefore, you must be armed and daily expect to be constantly attacked. Do not go in security and carelessly, as though the devil were far away from you. At all times you must expect and block his blows. Though you are now chaste, patient, kind, and in firm faith, the devil will this very hour send such an arrow into your heart that you can scarcely stand. For he is an enemy that never stops or becomes tired. When one temptation stops, there always arise others.
Beware! This is a battle that you cannot win! Certainly on your own, you can’t! But that does not mean you are without hope or help. You must take hold of the Lord’s Prayer, and speak to God from the heart like this: “Dear Father, You have asked me to pray. Don’t let me fall because of temptations.” Then you will see that the temptations must stop and finally confess themselves conquered. If you try to help yourself by your own thoughts and counsel, you will only make the matter worse and give the devil more space. For he has a serpent’s head. If it finds and opening into which it can slip, the whole body will follow without stopping. But prayer can prevent him and drive him back. So pray!
And, when you pray, say: “Lead us not into temptation.” This is how faith talks. Especially when the temptations come pouring in. Come bombarding in. For these words are your ammunition. Your missiles against Satan’s assaults. Against the world’s charms. Against the seductions of your own flesh.
But though these temptations are meant for evil against you, God means it for good, that you may have eternal life. By faith, all these temptations drive you to Jesus. The flesh and blood Jesus of Gethsemane and Golgotha. The very same Jesus who gives you His Body and Blood in the Sacrament this night as the very promise of His victory over all your sin and the wicked powers of the world and Satan. The Lord’s Supper tonight provides you with benefits for the long haul. For now and for eternity. Victory now and forever. For where there is forgiveness of sins there is life and salvation. And Jesus promises in His new covenant, as you receive Him in, with, and under the bread and the wine by faith: “You are forgiven for all of your sins.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Adapted from a sermon series presented by Brent Kuhlman at a pre-Lenten Preaching Seminar on Luther’s Small Catechism the 3rd chief part—The Our Father.