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Betrayal, Denial, and Other Temptations

May 14, 2023

Betrayal, Denial, and Other Temptations

Passage: Luke 22:39-23:1
Service Type:

Betrayal, Denial, and Other Temptations

LUKE 22:39-71


If you’re a first time guest with us today, you are jumping in right near the end of a two year journey where we’ve been going verse by verse, chapter by chapter, through the book of Luke. So I would love to have you all turn there, to Luke chapter 22. 


The setting for the text today is that Jesus has just finished eating the Passover meal with his 12 disciples, one of whom, named Judas, has been working undercover with the local religious leaders to betray Jesus, verse 6, agreeing to hand him over to them sometime when Jesus wasn’t surrounded by crowds. Which if you look back to the very last verse of chapter 21, there is only one place Jesus is routinely NOT surrounded by the crowds.  – During the day, he was teaching in the temple, but in the evening he would go out and spend the night on what is called the Mount of Olives. Then all the people would come early in the morning to hear him in the temple. 


So when you get to 22:39, and read He (Jesus) went out and made his way as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him…. It’s almost too predictable, isn’t it? It might even make you wonder, wait up – if Jesus knows that Judas is going to betray him, wouldn’t you want to mix up your routine a bit? Wouldn’t you want to NOT be preaching in the temple? Wouldn’t you want to NOT go out to the Mount of Olives if you knew Judas could be waiting among the trees for you? 


But remember a few weeks back – Jesus is fully in command of everything that is happening, and he is walking right into the trap on purpose. If Jesus DOESN’T purposely walk into this trap, you DON’T have the gospel. You don’t have good news. You have no hope of salvation and are still dead in your sins. Jesus says this in verse 37: For I tell you, what is written must be fulfilled in me: And he was counted among the lawless. Yes, what is written about me is coming to its fulfillment. 


The plan from before the foundation of the world is that Jesus would be treated like a criminal by the state, and treated like a sinner by his Father, even though he was neither. 


Headed out to the Mt of Olives: [40] When he reached the place, he told them [the disciples], "Pray that you may not fall into temptation." The question I rolled around in my head most of the last two weeks was, “what is the temptation Jesus wants the disciples to pray about?” We’re going to come back to that at the very end today - Pray that you may not fall into temptation.  [41] Then he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, knelt down, and began to pray, [42] "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me-nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." 


You might read that last verse there and think, hold up, is Jesus trying to get out of this now? “Take this cup away from me” – what is that? Does he not want to go to the cross now? Is he tempted at this moment to bail on the entire plan of salvation? Is our story of redemption just hanging by a thread right here where all of heaven holds its breath, going, wait, no, no, no, no! Is our Savior a reluctant savior? 


To all of those questions, I think the answer is no. Jesus is obviously willing to go through the cross. He would have had plenty of chances to back out of it before now. Even as he prays the question, he knows the answer. He knows the Passover lamb points to him, his blood on the door is the rescue for sinners. He knows he is the suffering servant from Isaiah 53 who carried our sorrows and whose wounds have paid our ransom. He knows he must be treated like a criminal for sins he didn’t commit. He knows that the sacrificial system was faulty and insufficient, and that he was here to be the full and final sacrifice that once and for all removes the record of sin that stood against sinners forever. He fully intends to die, and he has already predicted that on the third day he will rise. 


But as a human, he knows the physical pain he’s about to endure. He’s seen crucifixions before. Even knowing this is the plan, he is still human. But he also knows that the crown of thorns, the whips, the spear, the nails are nothing compared to having his Father, for the first time in eternity, turn his back on him. Jesus had only ever known the face of God… his joy, his companionship, his love, his fullness, his perfection, his approval. And now, looming just a few hours ahead, the Son will wear the sins of those he came to save, and the Father will look the other way. Here in prayer, Jesus can’t bear the thought. It’s crushing him. So he humbly asks if there is another way. 


I don’t know how your earthly dad responded to you asking questions. Maybe he was the kind who blew up on you, or made you feel stupid for not knowing something. But I want you to notice God the Father’s response to God the Son. He doesn’t scold him for asking a silly question. He doesn’t snap at him and say, “HEY! We decided this together! You know what I said – stick to the plan!” 


Look at verse [43] Then an angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him. God the Father answers his Son’s question with his presence. As the night settled in around him, and he knew what lay ahead, what gave Jesus strength was being in the presence of God. 


The apostle Paul talked about having a “thorn in the flesh.” Scholars have argued about what that thorn was, but he too prayed that it would be taken away just like Jesus did – and just like he did with Jesus, God responded with his presence. He said, “My grace is enough. It’s all you need right now.” 


I know some of you are going through some difficult trials in your own life – trials where you’d like to ask the Father to take this cup of suffering away from you, too. For some of you, God may answer your prayers and change your circumstances. But since we’re called to follow Jesus, there’s a good possibility God the Father will simply answer your prayer by giving you his very own presence to strengthen you, and help you walk through the hard things. Jesus shows us that in those moments:


It’s okay to pray that our circumstances change. God if there’s another way, I’d like that. But following Jesus also means submitting to God’s will. “If you are willing” Jesus prayed. “Not what I want, but Your will be done.” Jesus leads the way in what it looks like to trust the sovereign plan of God, and in showing us that true strength comes from the presence of God, not the changing of circumstances.  The angel’s presence reaffirmed what Jesus knew. He had to face the task God had placed before him. He had to go to the cross. But he went with heavenly presence, heavenly strength, and heavenly nourishment (Butler, 372-373).


Now right away in the next verses, we see that God’s presence doesn’t necessarily make the situation any less painful or even make it easier. With an angel there with him, strengthening him, [44] Being in anguish, he prayed more fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. 


I’ve never prayed with that kind of urgency that I started sweating as if I just finished playing basketball for a couple hours. But Jesus is in anguish, praying with intensity now. Whether or not his sweat actually was blood or just looked like blood, the thought of being abandoned by his Father was an overwhelming thought. 


[45] When he got up from prayer and came to the disciples, he found them sleeping, exhausted from their grief. [46] "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. And then he said to them a second time – "Get up and pray, so that you won't fall into temptation." [47] While he was still speaking, suddenly a mob came, and one of the Twelve named Judas was leading them. 


Judas knew where Jesus would be: There were no crowds here, and it’s dark. Win, win scenario. In the dark, though, the religious leaders might have trouble recognizing which one was Jesus, because unlike most of the paintings we’re familiar with, Jesus was not white and he didn’t have a perpetual halo around his head. So Judas had told them, according to Mark’s gospel, that he will greet someone with the traditional greeting of a friend – a kiss – and that’s the guy they should arrest. That ensures that there are no mistakes. There is no chance that they arrested the wrong guy, and a substitute died in Jesus’ place. Not a chance. One of his closest friends gave him a kiss on the cheek. They got the right guy. 


Jesus’ other disciples hadn’t had a clue what was going on until right now, it’s been a crazy week, a long day, Jesus keeps waking them up telling them to pray, so they’re a little groggy… and when they see the religious leaders are here to take Jesus away, of course they started to panic a bit… Jesus, should we attack? And without waiting for an answer, one of them starts swinging a sword and takes off a servant’s ear. 


Jesus replies in verse 51 and says, “ENOUGH OF THAT”, and heals the ear to make it obvious that a) he loves his enemies like he told them to do b) he is no threat to Rome. He’s not trying to meet force with force (Bock, 1771). According to Matthew’s gospel, Jesus turns and says to his disciples: Don’t you know that I can call on my Father and right now he would give me more than 12 legions of angels?


That’s in the neighborhood of 40,000-70,000 angels. The point again is, if Jesus wanted to get out of this situation, it wouldn’t be that difficult. These men are not overpowering us tonight – I’m giving them permission to do this. I didn’t choose you guys to follow me because I need warriors – I have an army the likes of which you cannot comprehend. In the gospel of John, Jesus adds – Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given me?


[54] They seized him, led him away, and brought him into the high priest's house. Meanwhile Peter was following at a distance. [55] They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, and Peter sat among them. [56] When a servant saw him sitting in the light, and looked closely at him, she said, "This man was with him too." [57] But he denied it: "Woman, I don't know him." 


Just a few hours earlier, in verse 31, Jesus tells Peter that Satan has asked to sift him like wheat. Sifting wheat is the process of throwing grain up in the air and letting the wind blow all the straw and dust away, and only the good stuff lands back in the basket. Jesus looked at Peter earlier that night and said Satan has asked for you by name. He wants to toss you around a bit. And in verse 33, Peter’s like, “bring it. I’ll go to prison with you, I’ll die with you”… and now here he is in the courtyard, and according to Matthew, he is approached by a servant girl, the least threatening person there could ever be, who simply calls him out as a follower of Jesus, and he breaks like a wet napkin. “Don’t even know him.” 


[58] After a little while, someone else saw him and said, "You're one of them too." "Man, I am not!" Peter said. [59] About an hour later, another kept insisting, "This man was certainly with him, since he's also a Galilean." [60] But Peter said, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about!" Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. 


And then, the worst thing I could imagine happened. Verse [61] Then the Lord turned and looked at Peter. So Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times." [62] And he went outside and wept bitterly. 


I can’t imagine the gut-punch Peter must have felt when he made eye contact with Jesus. “I’ll die for you Jesus! They can take my life, I’m never abandoning you!”… and 2 hours later, he folds to a servant girl within earshot of Jesus.  


But that’s one of the temptations Jesus warned them to pray against. I’d say it’s one of the temptations we all need to pray against still. And that is, that as humans our flesh is very weak. Even the most prominent disciple was able to fall under pressure. Every time I read on the news that another popular pastor has been involved in a sexual scandal or abuse of power, or something like that, it takes the wind out of me because once again it forces me to realize, I’m not strong enough on my own to withstand temptation. We need to take Jesus’ advice here, and pray that we don’t fall into temptation when things are difficult.


Meanwhile at the high priest's house, [63] The men who were holding Jesus started mocking and beating him. [64] After blindfolding him, they kept asking, "Prophesy! Who was it that hit you?" [65] And they were saying many other blasphemous things to him. [66] When daylight came, the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the scribes, convened and brought him before their Sanhedrin. [67] They said, "If you are the Messiah, tell us."


But he said to them, "If I do tell you, you will not believe. If I tell you, yep, sure am the Messiah, you’re not going to believe me. [68] And if I ask you, you will not answer. You already have made up your mind to take me out, so here’s my official statement:  [69] But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God." 


[70] They all asked, "Are you, then, the Son of God?" And he said to them, "You say that I am." In other words, those are your words, not mine, but I don’t deny it. And boom, they got their confession. No further witnesses your honor, they said, (v71) "since we've heard it ourselves from his mouth?" [23:1] Then their whole assembly rose up and brought him before Pilate.


Everything about this trial is a joke. 

  1. It was illegal to hold a trial at night. 
  2. It was at the high priests home instead of a court
  3. It was illegal to hold a trial during Passover.
  4. Soldiers holding an accused criminal are supposed to protect them, not mock and beat them. 
  5. Instead of asking real questions to get the truth, they play a game kids play where you blindfold someone, smack them, and they have to guess who did it.
  6. Jewish death-sentence trials were supposed to last two days, Jesus gets about 9 hours.
  7. Jesus was never given a chance to defend himself with evidence or witnesses.
  8. The Sanhedrin already had their verdict before Jesus went to trial. (Butler, 376). 


And since the Jewish leaders needed Roman authorities to actually take a life, they jumped up and hauled him off to see the local governor, with everything still going perfectly according to the eternal plan of God. 


That’s a lot of ground we covered today, and there are a lot of things we could talk about, a lot of different angles we could take on this. 


First of all, it’s very important that we continue to see Jesus has already predicted every single scene we’ve looked at today. He predicted Judas’ betrayal. He predicted Peter’s denial. He predicted he’d be handed over to the chief priests. He predicted he’d be spit on, mocked, and crucified. All of this is going exactly as he knew it would go, it is all perfectly in the plan of the Father – not a single second of it is left up to chance.


Secondly, I think you see three temptations happen in those three scenes we just looked at that we are all faced with from time to time, that Jesus would invite us to pray about. Look at this: 


  1. The temptation of Judas – We’ve seen some of Judas’ story over previous weeks, but the temptation here is that Jesus is great, but money is better. Judas was a follower of Jesus, one of the inner circle, gifted with the ability to cast out demons and heal people at one point, and yet kept lifting money out of the bank account for himself. That whole “the meek will inherit the earth” stuff looks good on a coffee mug, but in real life, Jesus doesn’t pay the bills. If it’s one or the other, I’ll take the cash, even if it means betraying Jesus. 
    1. This kind of betrayal is called Idolatry
    2. We might look like or even confess that we are walking with Jesus, but we are tempted to believe that we need more than what Jesus can offer. Jesus is not the Messiah I need. We want the kind of Messiah who can give us a long, happy, comfortable life with all the fixin’s. I do what’s right, he gives me what I want. There is an entire movement called the prosperity gospel that will feed you this hogwash all day long. It’s idolatry. Something we’re all tempted with. 


  1. The temptation of Peter – I’m good with Jesus until my comfort or security is threatened. When we’re at church or a small group together, I love Jesus a lot. He’s my everything. I’d die for him. But as soon as that co-worker starts pushing my buttons, or I think the guys might give me some hassle for my faith, I act like I’ve never heard of Jesus, or I come out swinging. 
    1. This temptation is a denial called self-protection. 
    2. It’s easy to be a Christian when there are other Christians around. But when we feel threatened, we defend ourselves by distancing ourselves from Christ, from church, from all the things we were happy to sing about on Sunday, or we become like a bobcat backed into a corner, come out with our swords swinging to the point where no one around the campfire would say, “you know, I think he’s been with Jesus!” It’s a temptation we all face, and it’s self-protection. 


  1. The temptation of the Religious Leaders – Jesus is too offensive. Get rid of him. Get him out of the public square. You want to invite him over for dinner, that’s on you – whatever makes you happy, but don’t force his way on us. No one tells me how to live my life – we answer to no one.
    1. This is a temptation – both betrayal and a denial called pride. 
    2. This is the mindset of the world. You could call this temptation “worldliness.” This temptation, according to Romans 1, is where people know that God exists, know what his commands are, know the punishment that will come as a result of rebelling, but put their hands in their ears, suppress the truth, exchange the glory of God for something of their own making, and do not acknowledge God’s existence or his authority. It’s marked by mockery, blasphemy, and aggression.
    3. The religious leaders carried it out on a grand scale, by dragging an innocent man to be crucified. But you and I are tempted to do the same thing every day with our money, our schedules, our parenting, our marriages, the way we conduct our business – no one tells me how to live my life. It’s a temptation called pride, and it’s a killer.


As a human, who lived the same kind of life we do, I believe Jesus knew full well the onslaught of temptations that these disciples would face in the coming hours, days, weeks, and years. 


They would be tempted by idolatry, tempted by comfort, tempted by pride, tempted to believe that prayer isn’t working if God doesn't change my circumstances, tempted to believe that he is distant and uninvolved, tempted to believe that I’m on my own. 


How does he encourage the disciples to avoid those temptations? PRAY. Pray so that you don’t fall into temptation. How do you avoid temptation? Pray! Why should you pray? So that you don’t fall into temptation! 


The very person standing on the planet delivering these words, the very person encouraging the disciples to pray so that they wouldn’t be tempted is the very same Jesus who overcame temptation on our behalf in the beginning of his ministry, and here again at the end, defeating the power of Satan’s lies and coming out the other side victorious. And it wasn’t just temptation he overcame – in about 3-4 hours from now, this same Jesus will be nailed to a cross of wood carrying on his shoulders the very death that we deserved – the death of eternal separation from God. 


It wasn’t that you and I all deserved to be crucified because of our sin, and Jesus took that. Lots of people have been crucified, or even worse. But Jesus was counted among the lawless – he was treated as if he was the one who broke all of God’s law.


The penalty of sin that Jesus took for us there on that cross was that instead of seeing God the Father’s face, for a moment in time, suspended there in the sky, Jesus saw his Father’s back. God the Father turned away from his own Son. The penalty that should have been ours for giving into any and all of the temptations that come our way, the penalty that we deserved for using Jesus to get what we want out of life, the penalty for our pride and  – ALL OF IT hung there on his shoulders.


And on the third day, when God raised Jesus from the dead, that weight of sin was gone. It was taken as far away as the east is from the west. Or if you prefer, it was dropped into the deepest part of the ocean where no diver could ever go to retrieve it. That recorded account of giving into temptation that filled up my whole ledger sheet was nailed to the cross and drowned in the blood of Christ. It’s unreadable. The record is canceled. 


When Jesus rose, I rose. When he rose up out of the grave, I came up with him – as Ephesians 2 says, I was made alive together with Christ, and it’s not just that my slate has been wiped clean and I was given a do-over…oh my no, it’s much better than that. Jesus has given to me his record of righteousness – his perfect life lived out before God, and if you have put your trust in Christ alone for your salvation, that is where you currently stand – as if you’ve never wanted anything more than Christ; as if you’ve never denied following Jesus; as if you’ve never said “no one tells me what to do.” 


And that Jesus is the very same person who is right now sitting at the right hand of God in heaven – once again, exactly like he told the Sanhedrin he would be – praying for you, continuing to give you a way out of every temptation every single time, and giving you the strength to overcome.


For the response time today, I want you to examine your own life – 


  1. Which temptation is the one that gets you most often? 
    1. Idolatry – Jesus isn’t enough
    2. Comfort – I don’t want to suffer
    3. Pride – Don’t tell me…

Confess it, and pray for God’s presence to give you strength this week.

  1. Truth - Jesus is at the right hand of God the Father, still praying for you that you would not fall into temptation, holding onto us and guiding us with his presence. 






Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51–24:53, vol. 2, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996)


Trent C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000)