Mercy in the midst of Misery

“Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matt. 26:41

I’ve been struck recently by this comment that Christ makes to his disciples at Gethsemane when they are falling asleep on him. Here he is, facing the most difficult trial of his life yet, not only in terms of physical torture, but also as he is about to drink the cup of the wrath of God for all the sins of the world from the beginning to the end of time. So he asks his disciples to pray… but instead finding them praying, he returns to find them sleeping. And how does he respond?

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

What a merciful statement! Rather than blasting them for their weakness and laziness, He graciously comments on God’s work that is evident in their lives (“the spirit is willing”), and acknowledges His sympathy of their weakness (“the flesh is weak”). Rather, than giving up on them, He encourages them to persevere, even as they have failed and are currently failing. In the moment when Christ was in greatest agony, His disciples failed to support him… and yet Christ still has a gracious word for them.

As the failing sinner that I so often am, this is a great encouragement: The Great Physician came not for the healthy, but for the sick. And the One who neither slumbers nor sleeps on us (Ps. 121:3) came not for perfect disciples, but for those who struggle to stay awake.

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