When he rose from prayer he returned to the disciples and found them sleeping – as they had been grieving. (Luke 22:45)So what does Jesus mean by this warning to his disciples? Is he telling them they cannot sleep? That sleeping causes people to fall into temptation and no one should sleep?
That would make no sense. We know from other verses throughout the Gospels that Jesus slept. And his disciples also slept.
But what is occurring at this time is something different. Jesus knows that the guards of Jewish High Priest Caiaphas are on their way to arrest Jesus.
So what would they be tempted to do? What was the temptation that was so great that Jesus was warning them to avoid at that time, so much that they shouldn't sleep? After all, it was night time, and they all usually slept at night time.
Jesus is speaking of the temptation of being self-centered at a critical time of need. Of looking only after oneself and not doing God's will when it really mattered.
This is in fact the very struggle Jesus was having. It was why Jesus had withdrawn from them to pray to God:
“LORD, if it pleases You, take this cup away from me, but let Your will – not mine – be done.” (Luke 22:42 DT)We know that he was struggling with this:
He was struggling and praying very earnestly, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling upon the ground. (Luke 22:44 DT)And we know that Jesus was seeking for God to give him strength - which is precisely what happened:
Then an angel from the spiritual realm appeared to him and strengthened him. (Luke 22:43 DT)These verses give us a clear picture of the situation - that Jesus himself was struggling with doing what he wanted versus doing what pleased the Supreme Being.
What do we mean by doing what he wanted? What would that be? Jesus was just about to be arrested that night. He could have escaped. He could have run off in the night and avoided arrest. His students surely could have helped protect him. He could have left the country and avoided the whole thing.
But he didn't. He knew that he had to stand up for his teachings of love for God. If he ran off, then his teachings would have little meaning. His teachings - which came from God - would have been forgotten. How do we know his teachings came from God?
"For I speak not from myself but the Creator Himself who sent me gives me instructions as to what to teach and what to say." (John 12:49)Thus we find that when Jesus arose from prayer and found his disciples sleeping as the critical moment of his approaching arrest, Jesus wanted his disciples to bypass their self-centeredness and seek to please the Supreme Being.
This is, in fact, the essence of the concept of "temptation." The word "temptation" is being translated from the Greek word, πειρασμός (peirasmos). This word means, according to the lexicon, "an experiment, attempt, trial, proving; the trial of man's fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy; temptation."
So what is this about trial? About proving one's fidelity, integrity, virtue and so on? Why is this the meaning of this Greek word translated to "temptation."
The reality is, the true meaning of "temptation" has been covered up and hidden through manipulation and misinterpretation by sectarian teachers and their institutions over the centuries.
The reason is because the element of "sin" - and the penalty of "sin" - hell - have been used as tools to scare and frighten people into joining these sectarian institutions. The threats put forth by these institutional leaders is that if people don't join the church and engage in their rituals, they will be sinners who will go to hell.
Following suit with these threats is the notion of temptation - manipulated to meaning that a person becomes tempted to do something that endangers their relationship with the church institution. Perhaps they don't attend when they're supposed to. Or they do some disgraceful thing that gets them kicked out of the church (excommunicated). Or they don't do some of the rituals, such as the communion or confessional or otherwise.
The temptation to do something that breaks the "ten commandments" isn't a problem with these institutions. Because according to their teachings, all a person has to do is engage in their rituals and responsibility for their 'commandment sins' will be cleansed. This means that members of these institutions can do any kind of vicious thing - whether it is killing others or stealing from others or otherwise brutalizing others - and all they have to do is perform the sectarian rituals and they'll be cleansed of any responsibility for their brutal behavior.
This very teaching has promoted a culture of criminals among these institutions. It allows members of these institutions to do what they want to others - thinking they will be purified through confession or communion or otherwise. This is why, for example, so many mobsters have been members of the Catholic church. And this is why Catholic priests have brutalized their own followers. They think they can be cleansed of the responsibility of their sins - simply through the rituals of their institution.
Other sectarian institutions that claim to follow Jesus may not practice these precise rituals, but they still teach that as long as one accepts that Jesus died for their sins, they will not be responsible for their actions. So their followers think they can commit crimes or otherwise harm others and as long as they go to church and accept that Jesus died for their sins, they will have no responsibility for their actions.
Such teachings are, in fact, manipulation. These institutions and their teachers have manipulated the teachings of Jesus and his disciples. They have taken statements out of context and have contrived this notion that Jesus' persecution somehow relieves the responsibility for everyone's sins - as long as they accept it.
Not only is such a notion untrue - and was never taught by Jesus - but it is bizarre and unfair.
Just consider, for example, a person who is born in the jungle or a remote island - living a simple life - say a century earlier when there was no TV or internet: And say they had never met anyone who told them their sins could be cleansed if they just accepted that Jesus died for everyone's sins. So their sins aren't cleansed - yet another person who does all forms of debauchery and even kills others who lives in Europe is cleansed because they did the rituals? Would that be considered fair?
Furthermore, is it fair that someone could viciously kill hundreds of other people and not have any responsibility? That they could simply accept that Jesus died for their sins and they could go back and kill some more? This is, in fact, what many mobsters have done.
Any prudent person would say that such a teaching would not be fair. It is not only not fair to those the person has killed or otherwise harmed - it is not fair to the person who thinks they are saved.
Yet we know simply by looking around that this is not the reality of the situation. Even many of those Catholic priests who brutalized their followers - many children - have since been punished, despite their having gone to communion and confession. Despite undergoing those rituals, some of them have ended up in prison due to their sinful behavior. (Unfortunately, records show that many have yet to be punished, but prosecutions are still ongoing.) So if a priest can go to jail for their crimes, what can we say for others?
Indeed, so many other members of these sectarian so-called Christian institutions have gone to jail, or have otherwise been at least partly punished for their crimes. Many mobsters who were members of the Catholic and other churches have gone to jail, or had the death sentence, or even been murdered by other mobsters because of their crimes.
And certainly these mobsters - and other criminals of these organizations - went to their respective churches and underwent the rituals for relieving them of responsibility for their sins.
But it didn't work, did it. They still at least partly paid for their sins. Those rituals that include communion, confession, or just accepting that Jesus died for their sins - none of them worked. They still suffered consequences of their sins.
This is, in fact, the reality of the situation. There is no magic get out of jail card. Whatever we do in a self-centered fashion has consequences. If we harm others, then we will be harmed. If not in this lifetime, then in the next lifetime.
This is, in fact, the real definition of hell.
Yet many institutions that claim to follow Jesus will say this is the only life and there is no other. But doesn't going to hell require having another lifetime? How could someone go to hell after this body dies and not be experiencing another lifetime?
Quite certainly, hell requires having another lifetime after this one.
The reality is that the teachings of Jesus and the Prophets did teach that the consequences of what we do in this lifetime will be paid for either in this or the next lifetime. This is why Jesus said to a man he just healed from blindness and paralysis:
"See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." (John 5:14 NIV)Now if Jesus made it so no one was responsible for their sins, why would Jesus instruct this man in this way? Why didn't he say, "just accept that I will die for your sins and you'll never be responsible for your sins again."?
Because this isn't how it works. We are each responsible for our sins.
We also find that regarding a blind man who was blind from birth, Jesus' disciples asked him a revealing question:
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:1-2 NIV)This means Jesus had been teaching his disciples that a person not only can have a lifetime prior to this one (in order to have sinned before, the man had to have had a previous lifetime); but Jesus was also teaching them that we can suffer the consequences of this lifetime in the next lifetime.
By the way, this teaching of Jesus answers one of the main questions that agnostics will ask religious institutions:
'If God is fair, then why are some children born starving? Why are some children born with congenital diseases? Why do some children die in infancy? Is that fair?'But knowing that we lived a previous lifetime - and knowing that we all suffer the consequences of our previous activities - explains how a person can be born into a particular condition and type of body - some suffering and some not.
The fact is, we are not the physical body. These bodies are temporary vehicles that we wear for a few decades. Then the body dies and we - the spirit-person - moves on.
Where we go after this depends on upon our consciousness. And our prior activities.
You see, the Supreme Being set up a fair system. He is not an unfair God. He set up a system whereby we have the freedom of choice - we can choose to be self-centered and we can harm or otherwise take advantage of others. Or we can care for others and treat others with kindness. Each of these choices has consequences. Those who harm others end up being harmed in the same way they harmed others. Why? So they can experience what they did to others.
This is the basis for the well-known phrase derived from Jesus' teachings:
"As you sow, so shall you reap." (Gal. 6:7)Isn't this the ultimate justice? Just think of some of the worst bad men: Those who commit acts of terror upon others and kill others. Many have so far escaped the justice of governments and their respective police forces. But from Jesus' teachings, we can have faith that this world is ultimately fair, and these people will be harmed in the same way they harmed others - for each instance they harmed others. This may require multiple lifetimes, but it will in fact happen. They will not get away with their crime.
Jesus' disciple Peter also taught this principle:
They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. (2 Peter 2:13)This is also the basis for the teaching of "eye for an eye," (Exodus 21:24) that has been misinterpreted and manipulated to mean that we have make sure that everyone gets what's coming to them. It is not us who have to do this. Rather, it will automatically occur, accomplished by the system of consequences programmed into this physical world.
Automatically, we will each experience the consequences of how we treat others - good or bad. Treating others with kindness will return kindness to us. Treating others with hostility will return hostility to us. Harming others will return harm to future physical bodies we occupy. And caring for others will return care to us.
So what about forgiveness? Can't we be forgiven for our past sins? And if we can't, then how could we possibly get out of paying for prior consequences?
Yes, it is possible to be forgiven for our prior sins. But this doesn't necessarily mean that we will not experience the consequences from them. Depending upon the situation, it may be necessary that we experience the consequences of prior sins. This, in fact, may be part of our learning experience as we continue to grow.
However, true forgiveness is about a change of heart. One must not only be sorry for self-centered activity: One must also change one's activities at the same time. It is not as if someone can truly gain forgiveness while continuing the activity.
Let's say that there is a terrorist who has imprisoned a victim and is torturing him. The terrorist goes into the torture room and says to the prisoner, "please forgive me," but continues to torture him. Will the prisoner forgive the terrorist? Will the terrorist feel he is truly forgiven if he keeps torturing the prisoner?
Certainly not. There may be a moment of forgiveness, but it won't last once the torture continues.
Without a true change of heart - which means changing one's activities - forgiveness has no opportunity to unfold.
You see, forgiveness isn't like a pardon. Rather, it is giving someone a fresh start. It means allowing a person another chance - the opportunity to change without prejudice.
This is what the Supreme Being is perpetually giving us. He always gives us - over and over - the opportunity to change. A fresh start to make a new direction.
And how can one make a new direction? By wanting to please the Supreme Being with one's life. This is the new direction that can change our lives and heart completely.
Consider, for example, what happens when a young person falls "in love." Suddenly, they go from thinking only about themselves to thinking about the person they have fallen "in love" with. This changes their whole direction in life.
This is the kind of change of direction that Jesus is teaching about: But he wants us to fall in love with the Supreme Being. He wants us to want to please God instead of living our lives seeking to please only ourselves and the extensions of ourselves - our physical families.
So what is the temptation that Jesus is referring to with his disciples? It is the temptation of falling into self-centeredness. The temptation to do only what is in their own interest, and not in the interest of the Supreme Being.
This is what Jesus wanted from them, and all of us. A change of heart: To love God with all our heart and soul and do what pleases God with our lives.
It is not an overnight thing. We may not be able to change our lives completely all in one moment. But we can change our direction. We can change our purpose: A purpose to accomplish in this lifetime: A purpose to come to know and love the Supreme Being.
Having such a purpose in our life will cleanse and purify us - but from the inside out. It will affect how we treat others. It will affect how we approach life. Gradually, we will start to consider whether our actions are pleasing to God. Doing so will increasingly purify our heart. And as our heart is increasingly purified, our lives will be purified by the blazing fire of a growing love for the Supreme Being.
Ironically, such a person - who has such a change of heart - will not be thinking about becoming cleansed. They will not feel they deserve to be relieved of the responsibilities of their past activities.
In fact, in the ultimate state of love for God, a person will be willing to suffer if it will help others to have this sort of change of heart.
This, in fact, was Jesus' motive. This was his motivation for teaching love for God in the presence of danger. It was not some magical thing where his being persecuted somehow lifts the consequences of the sins of others, though. His ability to purify others comes in the form of our realization of the love that Jesus had towards the Supreme Being - and his love for each of us - that he would put his life in danger in order to teach us love for God. By understanding the true love that comes from this is what can change our hearts and purify our lives.
This is how Jesus saves.