Maundy Thursday (Matthew 26:17-30)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR

Maundy Thursday + April 13, 2017

Text: Matthew 26:17-30

 

The Sixth Petition

“Lead us not into temptation”

 

Tonight, we continue the theme of our Lenten midweek services, taking a closer look at each petition of the Lord’s Prayer.  Tonight, we come to the sixth petition, “Lead us not into temptation” on the night in which Jesus was betrayed.

 

In Scripture, there are two kinds of tempting.  One is from God, and the other is from the enemies of God—the world, the devil, and sinful hearts.  The tempting or testing that comes from God is good, as James exhorts us, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials[1] of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”[2]  This is when the struggles, weaknesses, and failures of life result in a greater reliance on God.  It is confirmation of our faith, and the one who draws closer to God out of trial is even called perfect and complete!

 

But then there’s the other kind of temptation, which is addressed just a few verses later in the same chapter of James: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”[3]  Same word as in the Lord’s Prayer and what was called “trials” before.  In this case, however, the result is that someone loses trust for God, no longer fears Him, and even hates Him.

 

This is what happened for Judas, leading up to Jesus’ betrayal.

14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Temptation came to Judas, as Satan entered his heart,[4] and he was lead willingly into this evil.  Jesus knew beforehand that this would happen—that this must happen—to Judas.  But the more tragic thing than Judas’ sin was that he ended up losing his trust in God, despairing of His mercy and “seeing to” his sin himself by hanging himself. [5]  He could have repented and been restored, but he gave up on his Lord.

 

 

 

But Judas wasn’t the only one tempted that night.  Jesus told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”[6]  Peter also sinned against the Lord by denying Him three times.  The difference was that afterward, Peter was restored.  He grew in the awareness of his weakness—that his resolution to suffer with Jesus was prideful and his ability to keep watch was only as strong as his flesh.

 

And it wasn’t just a one-time battle for Peter or for any of us.  Peter had other times he was tempted, like when he gave into the circumcision party and refused to eat with Gentiles.[7]  But through the temptations with faith, God’s work in us is to keep us firm in faith.

 

So in this petition, we pray that we may have the steadfast faith of Peter, and be saved from the unbelief of Judas.  Truly the devil is a strong enemy, far more powerful than us.  He is able to snatch the Word of God from our hearts and blind us to the Lord’s faithfulness and mercy.  Our most heartfelt resolve cannot stand in the hour of testing. Even more, the great company of unbelievers would sweep us away from our faith in God. All of these stand against us persevering in the faith.

 

But One stands for us, who is Jesus Christ.  He prays for us, He fights for us, and He is greater than all who seek our fall.  And we pray that this Almighty Helper would never leave us to fend for ourselves—even for a single hour.

 

Even while we are attacked by these things, our Lord gives you special comfort and strength in His Body broken and His blood shed for you.  He offered His very life to make satisfaction for all of your sins, and He now gives that crucified and risen Body and Blood for you to eat and to drink.  Do not be afraid in the hour of temptation, for your Lord is near.  He was tempted in every way as you are, yet He is without sin.  He is gracious to forgive and restore you, and almighty to deliver you!

 

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.[8]

 

Just as you eat and drink the fruits of His suffering, He is faithful to bring you to the fruits of His resurrection in glory. Amen!

 

[1] Same word in Greek as “temptation” in the Lord’s Prayer

[2] James 1:2-4

[3] James 1:13-14

[4] Luke 22:3

[5] Matthew 27:3-5

[6] Luke 22:31-32

[7] Galatians 2

[8] 1 Peter 4:12-13

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