Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
One of the cherished tenets of Christianity is the High Priesthood of Christ. Therefore, we relish the Hebrew writer’s assurance that we have a sympathetic High Priest Who endured temptation without sin (Hebrews 4.14-15). Thus, I tend to hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 26.41 and Mark 14.38 a little differently: “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Unfortunately, I think many people take that as a rebuke. Yet, compassion is a word oft associated with Jesus in the Gospels. And Jesus knew the hearts of these men. He knew they had a desire to watch and pray but were physically exhausted.
Now, it is true that remaining diligent in watchfulness and prayer would have better served Peter, James, and John. However, these apostles were ultimately human and needed rest. There is a discernible difference between laziness and fatigue. If Peter, James, and John were sleeping because they were bored or took the situation lightly, would Jesus have credited them with having the willing spirit? Of course, not. Jesus recognized that they wanted to do as He told them.
Jesus knows well the limitations of the flesh. If you recall the Apostle Paul’s words, he says that Jesus emptied Himself, taking the likeness of man, to become a bondservant (Philippians 2.5-11). His obedience to His Father was so complete that He even tasted of death for every man (Hebrews 2.9). Hence, Jesus sometimes felt tired. So, where do we find Jesus after a day of performing signs and healing the sick in Matthew 8.24? He was sleeping on a boat. Yes, the disciples woke Him up because they feared the storm, but Jesus was resting. Do we think He went to sleep only to show His disciples proof of His Sonship?
The point here is that Jesus understands. Some saints may experience issues sidelining them from service. It could be one has a chronic illness, advanced age, military deployment, or employers who disregard his pleas to have Sundays and Wednesday nights off from work. I know that I beat myself up sometimes, thinking I should do more. But I’m not always honest with myself. In my mind, I can do anything I want. However, COPD and my current efforts to walk correctly again after prolonged hospitalization hamper me. In moments like this, I remind myself of how Jesus looked at the exhausted three in Gethsemane’s garden. His grace says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Obviously, this is not something one abuses. Just because Jesus understands the human condition doesn’t mean we can willfully neglect our spiritual service (cf. Romans 12.1-2). As Paul reminds us, grace is not a license to sin (cf. Romans 6.1-2). But take heart when you feel that you are a failure. The Lord knows your heart. Yes, He may remind you of your duty through the Word, but He will acknowledge a willing spirit hindered by the flesh.