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23 November. Luke chapters 21-22
The best known Christian prayer is, of course the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father. It does not appear in these chapters as such, but one of its phrases does. The one that in the traditional English translation reads “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” and is rendered in Scottish English as “do not bring us to the time of trial, but deliver us from evil”. I prefer that version and use it in my own prayer times.
“You are those who have stood by me in my trials”, Jesus tells his disciples (22:28). Twice, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus tells them “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’” (22:40, 46) And before that, in the Temple, after predicting the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish way of life, he tells them “Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place” (21:36).
The “times of trial” that Jesus foresaw were many and varied. From mocking and slander, to discrimination and prejudice, to persecution and martyrdom, his true followers would never have an easy life. For the people of Jerusalem as a whole, he predicted warfare, siege, looting, and fleeing in haste as refugees, never to return. More than that, he foresaw the eventual end of human civilisation following a time of natural disaster and warfare as nation fights against nation.
Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether any of the signs of the last days are being fulfilled in our time – people have thought so before and been proved wrong – what Jesus is asking of his disciples is a commitment to follow him through these times of trial, whatever happens. They may face poverty – but he sent them out with no money before, and they were fine (22:35). They may be tempted to deny Jesus, as Peter was – and gave in – but for those who repent there is always forgiveness. They would face evil in the form of foreign armies, homelessness (with all the disease and despair associated with refugee camps) and for some, the lions of the Roman amphitheatre. But Jesus promised to be with them in all of this. Elsewhere he explains that the words would be given to people at the right time by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
For Judas, there was to be no repentance. He was tempted by the love of money to betray his master, and ended his own life rather than face the consequences. Don’t be like him – pray for the strength to resist temptation, stand up to evil, and turn back when you fail (22:31).