Willing (Matthew 26:41)

Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Matthew 26:41

We often hear the latter part of this verse quoted. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. People quote it and intend it to mean that they would like to do a thing, but are physically unable. While I suppose that is a valid understanding of it, it misses the context of what precedes the statement.

Jesus chides His disciples to keep watching and praying. Jesus had gone off to pray and the disciples had fallen asleep. Perfectly understandable, since they had been given heavy news and it was getting on into night time and had finished a meal. It was the trifecta of things which make men sleepy: depressing news, late hour, full stomach. That they fell asleep does not surprise me. I think that Jesus is getting at something deeper than just staying awake, here.

To keep watching and praying presupposes that I have been watching and praying in the first place. Jesus took it as a given that His disciples would be watching and praying. The reason? That they might not enter into temptation. Part of the reason that I find myself weak against temptations that come my way is because I am not vigilant and intimate. I am not vigilant, in that I am not on my guard; not watching and expecting that temptations will come. I am not intimate, in that I am not praying; not spending time pouring out my heart to God and giving Him opportunity to pour His heart into me.

Why do I need to be doing these things? Shouldn’t the spirit that God gives me be sufficient? I think that is where the next part of the verse comes in. That new spirit and new heart that God gives me when He justifies me is willing, but the flesh is weak. The regenerated spirit that God gives me is perfectly willing to be obedient, but it has to drag this carcass along kicking and screaming. The regenerated spirit needs to be strengthened for the task and that strength comes from being vigilant and intimate; from watching and praying.

Today, let me make time for intimacy with God; time for prayer. Let me also be watchful; vigilant against the temptations that will come my way.

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