from Brittany Yeager
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus’ words to Peter in Gethsemane articulate so well the juxtaposition of the Christian life. I needn’t think long to recall examples from my own life in which my spirit of willingness is overpowered by my weakened flesh. I love to be loving and present, but the brokenness and pain of others can give me excuse to be critical and distant. I long to be patient and understanding, yet anger resides just beneath the surface and squelches my intentions.
Jesus’ words ring true in the lives on the disciples here in Matthew’s gospel account. Moments before their slumber, Jesus has told them that they will all fall away because of him this very night. Led by Peter, they all respond, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And yet, they sleep while their Lord suffers sorrow and anguish in his soul. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.
In stark contrast, here in the garden, we glimpse Jesus’ willingness to engage this tension to by communing with and confessing his weakness to the Father in order that his weakened flesh might be conformed to the will of his Father, even unto death. His flesh is weak (“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me...”), but his spirit is indeed willing (“...nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”).
Where might Jesus be speaking these words in our own lives? Where has our weakness of flesh overpowered our willing spirit to the point of slumber? Wake up! Go to dark Gethsemane and see our Savior inviting us to stay up with him, to watch, and to pray. May we respond in alert faith to his invitation, entering his prayer of submission, “Not my will, but yours be done.” For our spirit is indeed willing, but our flesh is weak.
I live in Arlington with Jon and our newly minted six-year old, Ellie. We are all enjoying the chance to get outside on these warmer days; so long, winter!