“The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” What does this mean? Who said this? Jesus. To Peter. Why?
“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”
But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Peter really believed that he would never fall away. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you.” (v.31) Jesus believed Peter meant what he said. But Jesus also knew that Peter’s courage would be challenged when faced with temptation (3x).
Jesus warned Peter to watch and pray so that he will not fall into temptation. Jesus also warned Judas: One of you will betray me… “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” (vv 18, 20-21)
They all denied it. “Surely you don’t mean me?” (v.19) Peter declared he will never disown Jesus and all others said the same (v.31).
Jesus warned them all (v.27). Yet they all abandoned him. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” The weak flesh is not about being too sleepy to pray. The flesh is weak because man is sinful by nature. Jesus wanted them to pray and be watchful to stand firm when temptation comes.
Jesus himself prayed for the cup to be taken away. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Jesus in his human ‘weakness’ called upon his Father – the one who makes all things possible. He knew God could if He would. Yet Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done. The spirit is willing. That is how it worked! Jesus was willing to let God’s will be done even while the flesh was weak.
Bottom line: I need to watch and pray so that I will not fall into temptation. To watch is to be alert and not let sleep overcome me. To watch is to stay awake. To watch is to pray without ceasing as the Spirit leads.
As reading God’s Word is like eating, so is praying like breathing. We breath every second of our lives. In Covid times, all the more we realize the value of each breath. I can only imagine how hard it must be to struggle to breathe… to live but just cannot.
Dear Lord, help me to keep watch and pray so I will stand firm when tempted. I need your Spirit to show me how to live according to your will. Amen.