Simon, Watch & Pray!
Recently I was asked what the specific temptation was to guard against in the Garden of Gathsemane. It says, "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation." I thought, 'that is a very good question'! If you notice in Mark 14:37, Jesus is talking to Peter. He is specifically calling him to "keep watch for one hour." Then in verse 38, he is told to keep watching and praying that [he] may not come into temptation." This sounds like the Lord's Prayer, doesn't it? "Lead us not into temptation?" Jesus knows that a specific hour of temptation is coming for Peter and that Peter, and he calls him Simon- his name before he became a follower of Christ, is not ready. Look at the verses before and after verse 38. What has Peter said or done? In verse 29, he said, "Even though all fall away, I will not." In the face of Jesus' prediction of his failure, Peter is bold and stoic in his resolve. On the other hand, he shouldn't have thought, 'Well, the Lord said I am going to deny Him so, oh well, I'll just let it happen'.He should have been humble and sought wisdom for prevention measures and/or remedy for his coming failure from Jesus. Jesus predicted that before the rooster crowed Peter would deny him 3 times. So, I think that Peter's denial, although prophesied by the Lord, was to be handled by Peter as real and resistible. Something similar to this happened in Daniel 4:10-17, 27, where Daniel predicted that the king would be driven away as a wild beast for 7 years because of pride and then later be restored to his kingdom. However, in Daniel 4:27, Daniel gives advice to the king about specific ways to repent and perhaps avoid this fate. He says break off your sins "in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity." This also happened to Hezekiah, who was told he was going to die but when he humbled himself the Lord gave him 13 more years. So, it seems the Lord sometimes prophesies of coming judgment in order to provoke repentance or readiness for action (also see Jonah 3:4, 10). For Peter, he wanted to resist the temptation (the spirit is willing) but his flesh was weak (he fell asleep at a time when he should have prayed) and he consequently failed. The other part of the temptation that Jesus may have warned against was that He was soon to be taken from their midst. This would have been the first time they had been without their Lord and they would have been afraid. It would be harder to confess Him as their Lord and so they would need God's help and power to overcome their coming cowardice. Verse 27 says that "I will strike down the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered." Jesus told them what was coming and they needed to prepare. I believe the command to "watch" takes on 2 meanings. The first has the idea of seeing what was going on, what was about to happen. Peter needed to be awake so that he could see the betrayal and arrest. He needed to be able to read the times and act appropriately. He was not told to pray yet (v. 34). The second is tied to the first. It has the idea of seeing and being prepared to act according to the circumstances. Peter should have been praying and keeping watch while his Lord prayed. So, as we do not specifically get the details about the temptation Peter was to avoid, we do get the general concept by looking at the verses before and after Jesus' prediction. And this seems to be that Peter needed to prepare to stand up for the name of Christ, when his shepherd had been taken away, so that he would not sin, as he did before the fire in the courtyard of the high priest. Even though our Lord was temporarily removed from Peter, He has promised us that He is with us always, even to the end of the age! Ask God to prepare you to be ready to confess Christ today!