Luke 22:39-53: Jesus’ final prayer and Judas’ betrayal

39Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." 41He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

45When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46"Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

47While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48but Jesus asked him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"

49When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?" 50And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

51But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him.

52Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns."

Main Points

A. Christ's disciples need to be on the alert when opportunities of temptation present themselves, by asking God to be rescued from them.

"Pray that you will not fall into temptation." "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

Verses 40 and 46 provide one of the first indications we get in the book of Luke that the life of a disciple of Jesus, while on this earth, must necessarily involve a spiritual battle. Other places in the New Testament reinforce the fact that this battle is fought against Satan (Eph 6:10-20), the world (1 Jn 2:15-17) and one's own flesh (Mt 26:41; Jas 1:13-15).

God has promised His people that He will always provide a way for them to stand up under temptation (1 Co 10:13). However, this does not them give them warrant to be passive. They must avail themselves of the means God uses to provide a way of escape: knowing the Scriptures and using them as a weapon (as Jesus did toward Satan in Mt 4:1-11 and Lk 4:1-13) and, as this passage and Matthew 26:41 make clear, prayer.

Reflection Question: is my life characterized by a tendency to give into temptation rather than flee from it? If so, what does this reveal about my habits in using the means of grace that God has given me?

B. Jesus provides His people with an example for how we are to pray in times of difficulty.

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (v. 42)

"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray." (James 5:13)

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him." (1 Jn 5:14-15)

If the Son prayed to the Father with the view to submit to His sovereignty above all else, how much more must we.

Reflection Question: Do my prayers reveal a desire for the glory and will of God above everything else? Or do they assume that God is some "genie" who is obliged to give us, and/or owe us, whatever we think we need?

C. One of the roles of angels is to serve Christ, and, by extension, His people.

"an angel from heaven appeared to Him, and strengthened Him." (v. 43)

Angels' service to Christ is, in part, a reflection of their worship of Him: "And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." (Hebrews 1:6).

And yet, the ministry of angels extends to Christ's people too: "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" (Heb 1:14)

Reflection questions: How can we make too much of angels? Too little of them?

D. The fact of Jesus' request to God the Father, i.e. that the "cup" may pass from Him, combined with his physical condition at the time of this prayer, ought to provide a sobering reminder to us of just what he had to suffer to free His people from the penalty of their sin.

"How can we account for the deep agony which our Lord underwent in the garden? What reason can we assign for the intense suffering, both mental and bodily, which He manifestly endured? There is only one satisfactory answer. It was caused by the burden of a world's imputed sin, which then began to press upon Him in a peculiar manner. He had undertaken to be "sin for us"--to be "made a curse for us"--and to allow our iniquities to be laid on Himself. (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; Isaiah. 53:6.) It was the enormous weight of these iniquities which made Him suffer agony." (Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke)

Reflection questions: As opposed to merely doing so around the time of Good Friday, do I make a point throughout the year to think about the unimaginable pain it must have caused Jesus to anticipate, and finally suffer, the wrath of God for my sin, and the sin of the whole world throughout history? What does His suffering reveal about the pure wretchedness of sin? Do I
undergo a deeper repentance as a result?

E. The most evil acts may be done under the guise of love to Christ.

Judas kissed Jesus (vv. 47-48) even as he was about to hand Him over to the authorities.

F. The love that Christ's people have for Him often proves to be remarkably fickle.

The disciples follow Jesus into the garden; yet they fall asleep just moments later. One of them defends Jesus by cutting off the ear of the high priest's servant, yet all of the disciples flee just moments later. Jesus anticipates such unfaithfulness and wavering commitment (remember last week - Lk 22:34; also Jn 16:32), but He remains faithful and committed to complete the work He starts in those who know Him (Lk 22:31-32; Phil 1:6; 2 Ti 2:13; Heb 7:25).

G. God may permit evil to triumph for a time, though such time will not last.

"But this is your hour—when darkness reigns."

"The devil could not touch Job's property or person until God allowed him. He could not prevent Job's prosperity returning, when God's designs on Job were accomplished. Our Lord's enemies could not take and slay him, until the appointed "hour" of His weakness arrived. Nor yet could they prevent His rising again, when the hour came in which He was declared the Son of God with power, by His resurrection from the dead. (Rom. 1:4) When He was led forth to Calvary, it was "their hour." When He rose victorious from the grave, it was His." (Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke)

Reflection question: What implications - both sobering, and hopeful - can you draw from Jesus' statement in verse 53 for your own Christian life?

Next week: Luke 22: 54-71