ESV Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, « The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. 28 « You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 31 « Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. » 33 Peter said to him, « Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death. » 34 Jesus said, « I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me. » 35 And he said to them, « When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything? » They said, « Nothing. » 36 He said to them, « But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment. » 38 And they said, « Look, Lord, here are two swords. » And he said to them, « It is enough. » 39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, « Pray that you may not enter into temptation. » 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, « Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. » 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, « Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation. »
The narrative of Luke 22:24-46 begins with a conflict among the disciples concerning who will be the greatest and ruling one, to which Jesus warns them: don’t act like the Gentiles.
He appointed Peter by name though, as if he will be a modelling disciple that evidenced that most radical existential transformation of a commonly assumed ‘o.k. person’ into a genuine Christian.
This o.k. person has many good qualities. His loyalty and integrity are to be kept and praise in most normal conditions. « Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death. » Peter is the kind of friend that you and me would want to have, or already had, for life.
However, probing into the deepest of human condition, Jesus is not so sanguine, as he knows what Peter and he will soon go through is beyond a normal test for human friendship or bonds of good will; rather the circumstance that will come stretches our imagination as it goes beyond our common sense and twists our general assumption of humanity: the betrayal by one’s disciple, the acquittal of the death criminal for the sake of the crucifixion of the innocent, the freely given grace of a « second chance » life offer, and the resurrection beyond a perishable body shell.
This is why Jesus told Peter: « The rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me. » Peter just had no idea what he would be going through. He is not mentally well- prepared- though he hastily assumed he was.
However, as Jesus said, « Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. »- there is a key, a tip, whereby we can prepare ourselves against the lure from the Evil One: through prayer. It just logically follows that they set out to a secret place for « vigil ».
The definition of the term « vigil » is twofold: 1) period of wakefulness during the night (particularly for the purpose of watching or guarding); (2) time of prayer on the eve of a religious holiday. And it is plain enough how the two meanings are connected, if we know what life is about is not just physical wars but is more so about spiritual conflicts.
Vigil as prayer is to equip us to face all the ideological infiltration, spiritual attack, and ungodly thoughts with the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, as second person of the Trinity who in eternity enjoys communion with the first and the third person, the Father and the Spirit, knows very well how this ‘spiritual communication’ is the key through which we combat the deception, the ‘nothingness’, from the power of evil.
But, have you and me grasped this reality as Jesus tries to teach us? Or are you and me more like Peter, who knew only relying on our created nature and human instinct?
« Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation. »
It seems so real to me that Peter just fell asleep during the vigil, due to ‘sorrow’ and ‘exhaustion’. I have experienced this several times: when I set out to do things ‘for’ God in my life, I faint and let my body, with its signals of fatigue, lust, euphoria, and pain, directs me to seek a « biologically optimal » (a short-lived sensual pleasure) lifestyle, as opposed to a ‘spiritually optimal’ one (long-lasting eudaimonia).
Maybe not here, but in my personal testimony and my sermon, I will share concrete examples of these. I will tell this and I must, because I have gone through it. I have nothing in myself to brag except for one thing: Jesus. Jesus has prayed for me, interceded on my behalf, and has forgiven my transgressions, just like He did for Peter and everyone of His dear disciples whom He has chosen.
« I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. »