The Time of Trial
“Jesus came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.'” – Luke 22:39-40
Since I was a child I have prayed the line from the Lord’s Prayer “lead us not into temptation.” Too often my “temptations” have been of the trivial sort, such as whether to eat that second cupcake. My mother liked to quote New Yorker writer Alexander Woollcott, “All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral, or fattening.”
But the newer translation of this line is “save us from the time of trial,” which echoes Jesus’s words here to the disciples.
So “the time of trial” is not about the daily small decisions we face, but about those moments when we are confronted with big choices that will change our lives and the lives of others.
“The time of trial” is a reckoning, a test of our humanity and moral courage. Could we be a Harriet Tubman and help runaway slaves? Could we be a Dietrich Bonhoeffer and resist the Nazis?
I’d like to think I could, but I know my own heart enough to know it is not a sure thing. And here is where I take some solace in knowing that Jesus himself wrestled with his calling, even as his disciples fell asleep when asked to watch with him one hour. And still he loved them.
Jesus knew he could not avoid his time of trial, but told the disciples to pray that they might be spared theirs.
Save us from the time of trial, O God, but if it comes, give us the strength we need to be courageous and faithful.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. A writer and author, his most recent publications are Romans, Parts 1 and 2 (with Michael S. Bennett), new titles in the “Listen Up!” Bible Study Series. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.