When the Flesh is Very Weak (Matthew 26)
Jesus awaiting the betrayer at Gethsemane
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
This is probably Jesus' weakest and saddest moment ever recorded in the Gospels. The author does not shy away from portraying Jesus' desperation and sorrows at all. Our God who told us 'not to let our hearts be troubled' (John 14:1) was not troubled and overwhelmed with sorrow.
He was not alone, but was probably very lonely.
Jesus' desire for his disciples for this critical time was surprisingly simple: "Keep watch with me" (v.38). What do you make of this line? What's so important about it? Why didn't Jesus just make them strong miraculously?
Jesus also asked them at least twice "keep watch and pray." Keep watch for what and pray for what specifically?
The passage emphasizes the simplicity and repetition of Jesus' prayer. It, apparently, didn't have any improvement or help at all. Or did it?
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death."
Take a moment of silence to imagine and feel this level of sorrow. What impact would it have on you?
"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Like the disciples, even Jesus had moments when the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. Jesus could have said many other things in response to his disciples' failure to keep watch, but why did he choose to comment on this? What was his way out?
What role did emotions play in Jesus' preparation for his mission and his relationship with the Father?
Imagine the disappointment Jesus had with his disciples, and possibly also disappointment with the seeming lack of comfort from the Father. What do you think of his way of coping with such disappointment?
Contrast Jesus' emotional strength with the disciples' in the following events in Matthew 26. What made the difference?