On the night of October 3, 1998, a snake-handling evangelist named John Wayne Brown, Jr. was bitten by one of his own timber rattlesnakes in the middle of his sermon. Though Reverend Brown continued to speak to the people of Rock House Holiness Church, he soon collapsed onstage. The congregation gathered around him—praying and trying to cool him with an electric fan—but brown was dead within minutes. Brown, 34, was known throughout southeastern Appalachia as having handled snakes since he was seventeen years old He was also known for having survived twenty-two previous bites. Reverend Brown left behind him five orphaned children—his wife Melinda died from a snake bite during a revival service in 1995. One pastor who was onstage with Brown the night of his death said he didn’t think the tragedy would faze the church members, and asserted that the church would not change its practices: “I think they will be more careful about handling serpents. I think they will wait until the Lord moves on them.” “A lot of people don’t understand us,” he offered. “We are just normal people, but we believe God’s word.”
John Wayne Brown, Jr. learned that even though you think you have control over something deadly, at a moment’s notice it can bear its fangs and strike with a lethal bite. Temptation acts in the exact same way in the life of the believer. We may think we have control, but we are deceived. If we are not careful, we may find ourselves fallen into the very temptation we thought was under our complete control. In our passage, Jesus offers up the truth about how to keep from falling into temptation.
According to Mark 14:26, Jesus and the eleven left the upper room after finishing the Passover and walked toward the Mount of Olives. Leaving Jerusalem through the eastern gate, they would have traversed the Kidron Valley, crossing the brook that was still flowing with Water from the late winter rains. Before reaching their destination at the garden of Gethsemane, the Lord issued a traumatic prediction to His disciples, explaining to them that their courage would fail and they would abandon Him.
Here in 14:27 and its parallels Jesus is predicting that the disciples would all become untrue to Him. They would resemble sheep that are running away from their shepherd. Jesus sees this as the fulfillment of Zech. 13:7. But in the same breath, Jesus also speaks of hope. Here Jesus assures his disciples.
With an attitude of superiority, Peter clearly shows that he does not know himself. Even though Peter did not know his true character, Jesus knew him well. Jesus places emphasis upon the shallow profession of Peter’s boast.
The name Gethsemane means “oil press”. Scholars surmise that the garden was probably owned by a wealthy acquaintance of Jesus. It was a walled orchard on the side of the Mount of Olives and contained its own olive press. Here Jesus left the body of disciples near the entrance and took the three further up on the property, where He underwent great distress.
This was the deepest sorrow Jesus had ever experienced. The primary cause of His anguish was not Israel’s rejection, Judas’ defection, or the disciples’ desertion. Nor was it the injustice of the religious leaders, the mockery of the Roman soldiers, or even the impending reality of physical death.
His grief was fueled, first and foremost, by the horrifying recognition that He would soon become the bearer of sin and the object of divine wrath.
If they were to overcome the weakness of their unredeemed flesh, they desperately needed to rely on divine power. The disciples undoubtedly wanted to say alter. They likewise desired to remain loyal to Christ, insisting that they would not abandon Him. Yet, even though they had good intentions, in both cases they succumbed to the flesh.
Three times Jesus returns, three times He tells them to watch and pray.
Let’s take a look at both of these commands.
We have no strength or power to withstand. The confidence we have in our own strength is actually our weakness. Remember, this was true of Peter.
Our hearts are like a castle with a traitor behind the walls. It doesn’t matter how tall the walls are or how strong the defenses are, once he is inside, he can reek havoc. We have traitors in own very own hearts that are ready to take part and unite against us at every temptation.
There are secret lusts that lie dormant, lurking in your heart, temporarily quiet, waiting for the opportunity of temptation to befall you. They will rise, argue, cry, and seduce with perseverance until either they are killed or satisfied. If your heart currently abhors the thoughts of a particular sin, be careful, it may be the very one your heart is inflamed towards when the hour of temptation comes.
‘“The one who trusts in himself is a fool, but the one who walks in wisdom will be safe.” –Prov. 28:26
“The heart is deceitful.” –Jer. 17:9
If you place your trust in your own heart, it will deceive you every time.
So let me share some practical application with you in this regard.
“Let him who would spend little time in temptation spend much time in prayer.”–John Owen.
Prayer puts our souls into a posture of opposition to every temptation (Eph. 6:18). Without prayer, the rest of the armor will be of little value.
Failure to pray is failure along the whole line of life.” –E.M. Bounds
Why? Because if you do not pray, you rob yourself of God’s help. And, you must pray to God if your love for God is going to exist. Prayer always carries us back to God. To make prayer secondary is to make God secondary. To esteem the place of prayer is to esteem the place of God.
Prayerlessness is the predecessor to sinfulness and bondage. You are effectively disarmed if you fail to pray.
Remember, the Exodus had its inception in prayer. And it was when Jonah prayed from the belly of the fish that it vomited him out. God uses prayer to push back the forces of darkness (see Eph. 5:18).
So when we pray: we are resting in Him; acting with Him; leaning on Him; obeying Him; drawing strength and needed grace from Him. This is why God loves it when we pray.