“Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, ‘What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak’ ” (Matthew 26:40-41).
One of the realities of living in this world is facing temptation. Even Jesus faced temptation (Hebrews 4:15). How do you cope with temptation? How to you brace yourself from giving into temptations?
Knowing that He was about to endure the cross, Jesus would face many temptations on the road that led to His own death such as how He would react when falsely accused, spit upon, mocked, and ultimately crucified. In fact, He was tempted to forego having to face the cross altogether. However, Jesus was not the only one facing temptation during these times. His disciples faced it as well. They faced the temptation to deny knowing Jesus and of abandoning Him in order to save their own lives. Jesus had warned them, “"All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: 'I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered’ ” (Matthew 26:31).
How did the disciples react to knowing they were going to be facing temptation? They boasted that they would never deny Jesus: “Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble’ "(Matthew 26:33). Jesus again tries to bring Peter back to reality and get him understand the magnitude of the temptation he will be facing as he tells Peter, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times” (Matthew 26:34). However, Peter and the other disciples refused to acknowledge the difficulty of the temptations they were about to face: “Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ And so said all the disciples” (Matthew 26:35). No doubt these are bold statements by Peter and the other disciples, but we know that ultimately they did fail the Lord and succumbed to the temptations they faced that night as they all forsook Him and fled (Matthew 26:56, 69-75).
On the other hand, how did Jesus face and brace himself for the temptations He knew were coming to Him? He didn’t deny the power of the temptations which lay before Him; He acknowledged them. He told His disciples, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me” (Matthew 26:38). He then cast His cares about the temptations He faced upon His Heavenly Father (cf. 1 Peter 5:7). As the opening verses above indicated, He prayed about it. In fact, He prayed the same prayer 3 times (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44). While He prays He gains strength as He moves from asking God “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39) to “If this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done” (Matthew 26:41).
Jesus had encouraged His disciples to pray as well regarding the temptations they were facing, but, instead, they chose to fall asleep (Matthew 26:40, 43, 45). While He had prepared Himself for the trials He faced by praying about them, His disciples found themselves totally unprepared to brace for the temptations they were about to endure because they were only relying on their own strength. Today, I do not want to be unprepared or boast of my own strength regarding facing temptations, but I will turn to God in prayer relying on His strength to brace me for the trials which may come my way.
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13).