by Major Anne Pickup –
“Lest I forget Gethsemane, lest I forget thine agony;
Lest I forget thy love for me, lead me to Calvary.”
Jennie Evelyn Hussey
Meditation, contemplation and prayer during the Lenten season leads the believer to Calvary. Before Calvary, the cross, and death, there was Gethsemane. I don’t want to forget Gethsemane because it was the “finest hour” regarding resistance to temptation.
Temptation was not new to Jesus. Jesus began his earthly mission, after being baptized, by passing through the fire of temptation in the wilderness. He ended his mission, on the cross, after once again passing through the fire of temptation, in Gethsemane.
The temptation in the wilderness and the temptation in Gethsemane are of the same stuff. The tempter is Satan and his goal is to get the believer to sin–the sin of distrusting God. In the wilderness, after forty days of fasting, Jesus was tempted to satisfy hunger by turning stones into bread. The temptation was to “take care of yourself.” Jesus resisted by quoting Scripture that spoke directly to the providential care of God for his people through supplying manna.
The second temptation was an appeal to “be successful.” Human pride and desires for power and prestige cause many to fall to the temptation of success and a philosophy of “the end justifies the means.” Jesus resisted this temptation by again quoting Scripture.
“Fear the Lord your God, serve him only…” Deuteronomy 6:13
The third wilderness temptation, to throw himself down from the temple in Jerusalem, was a temptation to seek the spotlight. Satan knew God couldn’t allow Jesus to die at that moment, so angels would be dispatched. It would be a dramatic rescue in the sight of thousands of people. As a result, Jesus would be very popular, and always in the spotlight. Again, Jesus quoted Scripture to resist the temptation.
Bruce Larson says, “The whole focus of the three temptations is the how of life. Jesus had been affirmed by God at his baptism. He was clear on his mission. Now it was simply a question of strategy.” Satan’s basic strategy in temptation is to make us believe that God is not trustworthy. Satan’s basic lie is that we cannot trust God. Our basic sin, our yielding to temptation, is distrusting God.
In Gethsemane Jesus is again tempted to mistrust God. He is anguishing in prayer because he knows what the next couple of days will hold.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me…” Luke 22:42
Sin and hell are in that cup! Torture and terror are in that cup! Death and damnation are in that cup! This can’t really be the way, Father!
The temptation was not to trust God. The anguish reveals the depth of concern. Could God be trusted to walk him through this trial of terror? Could God be trusted to accomplish the work of redemption through such a horrible ordeal? Could God be trusted ultimately to turn in love to Jesus, to forgive, heal and restore to life? Could God be trusted?
“…yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Yes, God can be trusted! Scripture reveals the trustworthiness of God. From Gethsemane and the wilderness temptations we are reminded, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:11)