There is an amazing story in Matthew 26 which tells us what Jesus did on the last day before He died on that cross for us.
Before He was arrested we read the moving story of Him going to the garden of Gethsemane with His closest friends and disciples to pray.
He knew what was about to happen. He knew that He was going to be betrayed by Judas. He knew that He was going to be arrested. He knew that He was about to be mistreated. And He knew He was going to die a cruel death on a cross. I believe He knew full well He was the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.
And so of all things that He could have done that night He chose to eat the Passover meal with those closest to Him, (His Apostles) and then takes them out to one of His favorite spots to pray, in a garden of olive trees.
The last thing He asked them to do before He was arrested and put to death was to watch, and then to watch and pray so that they would not fall into temptation. Read: Matthew 26:36-46(click on verse to read)
He wanted His friends to be by His side to support Him, but they could not even do that. Not once did He find them asleep, but rather three times after asking them to watch and pray.
He also states a profound truth, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
So in our text today we see where Jesus makes a distinction between what our spirit wants and how weak our flesh can be at times. He also gives His disciples some advice on how to overcome and press through the weakness of our flesh and the temptations that may come our way.
But before we get deeper into this text, I’d like to review what we began to talk about last week concerning our spirit and our flesh. We began a new series of lessons and I mentioned the fact that we are a triune being. We are a spirit, we have a soul, and for the time being both our spirit and soul live in a body, a body of flesh.
I would like to describe each of these parts a little more because each of these part are different as Jesus mentioned here in this text. As a matter of fact last week we read in Galatians 5:17 that “17 the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other”
Let’s begin today by talking about the most obvious part, our body of flesh. When I think about the body, our flesh, there are many things that come to my mind:
– It doesn’t like to experience pain or discomfort
– It never wants to hurt, thirst, feel hungry, or cold or too hot.
– Rather if the truth be told, our body always wants and seeks to feel good and have a continuing flow of good and pleasing feeling and experiences.
– The flesh loves to be pampered.. It craves and enjoys rest, comfort, tasty food and drink, whatever we can do to make it feel pleasure and momentary satisfaction, even if it’s not the best thing to do for our overall health.
And when the body of flesh doesn’t get what it wants or craves, well it nags us, it has a hissy fit because it wants what it wants, when it wants it.
How many of you realize that your body of flesh will try to boss you around because it has strong cravings? – Like a piece of chocolate would taste good right about now… or as you drive by and ice cream stand on a hot summer day, and the flesh lets you know, ’Mmm, that sure would taste good on a day like today.’ Or coffee – Or the flesh says, ‘Oh man I like the buzz I get when I drink a lot of alcohol, it relaxes me, make me feel good and I laugh a lot.’
The bodies of those apostles said I am tired… sleep, sleep, sleep.
Many times our bodies crave things that are not in our best interest.
Our Soul is a bit more complex. It is who we are as an individual. It is the seat of our personality, not necessarily our physical brain, but rather our mind, our heart. It is the seat of our emotions. It is where we determine what we want, what we feel, what we think, its where we actually decide to do, or not to do. Ultimately it should control the body and do what’s best, but if we are not careful or disciplined enough, it’s the other way around.
Now your soul does not necessarily tell you anything about God, rather it tells you about you. It tells you what you want, not what God wants. It tells you about how you feel, not about how God feels. And it tells you what you think, not what God thinks. And as you know, what we want and think and feel can be quite different that what God wants and thinks, and feels.
Sad to say, for most of us our soul is more closely linked to what our body craves than what the spirit wants, and know is best.
Our Spirit is even a more complex and a difficult to describe. In Genesis 1:26, we are told that God created us in His own image and likeness. I don’t necessarily believe that God was referring to our physical body being like His.
Rather, it is with a soul and spirit that we are created like Him, in His image. Our soul being our individual personality and our spirit the very essence and life force of our existence (both of which are from God Himself).
In essence, God is a spirit, and so too are we in essence (a spirit). We are a spirit created to be like God. But at present and for the time being our soul and spirit are now in this body of flesh.
Now God’s own Holy Spirit communes with our spirit. Our spirit is the part of us that hears from God. God’s spirit helps us believe, and have faith, and know things, giving us intuition and revelation. Often many refer to our spirit as our conscious.
But unfortunately, it is this part of us we seemingly ignore the most. .
Why? Because our body wants what it wants, when it wants it. And our mind of flesh listens to the flesh and sometimes just thinks w a y too much, thinks or reasons why we should give the flesh what it wants.
In 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul said that he hoped that our whole being, body, soul, and spirit would be sanctified or set apart for God’s holy use.
God can do so much with us if we just let Him. As a Christian, we can actually allow a Holy Spirit invasion to take place in our being and in our life, where we can be so filled that every room of our soul and our life will be influenced by the Spirit of God, … that is if we let Him….
– Where He gets into and influences our thoughts
– And where He get into and effects our emotions
– Where He gets in and has an effect on our will and the fruit of that will be seen in our flesh and in our life.
As a Christian, that should be our goal; to bear good fruit just naturally or just because of who we are and what we have become in Christ.
As we learn to listen to our spirit which is now being guided and led by the Holy Spirit of God, our soul’s mind can be empowered to do what is right rather than listening to what the flesh wants all the time.
Just because the body doesn’t feel like doing something it doesn’t mean we have to give into it. I’m sure there are many days you don’t feel like coming to church or going to Bible study, but something in your gut, in your spirit has convinced your mind that you should go; not only for your benefit, but others as well, your brethren need to be encouraged by you as well.
You may feel like you should throw more in the collection plate on a particular week, maybe double or triple your regular contribution. Your flesh cries out and says ‘Hey wait a minute, think a little more about this. You could use that money to get something nice for yourself.’ And depending on who you listen to, it will determine what your soul’s mind decides to do.
Just a side note: I believe God tell us to give stuff away all the time (food, clothes, stuff in our homes and not just that old stuff you don’t want, even money) But all too often we don’t want to hear that. We don’t want to give our stuff away. As a matter of fact the mind of flesh tells us that it would be even better if you gave you your stuff to me so I could have even more.
So there’s this battle going on in us all the time. But in reality if we want to have more peace and be blessed by God, then we have to obey what God is telling us to do.
If God is prompting you to give something away, maybe a piece of jewelry, clothing, or maybe even that nice set of dishes, or a tool, or even a cow or a vehicle or a piece of land. Do you know what happens if you don’t give that something away especially if you think God is telling you to give it to someone? If you don’t give it, every time you see that object you just don’t feel right. God will no longer enable or anoint you to enjoy it. Did you ever feel like you should have given something to someone and when did you felt good inside (maybe more blessed than the one you gave it to. But if you didn’t give it the it kinda haunts you?)
I don’t always have to know why God wants me to do something. The lesson here is we just need to learn to do what He tells me to do, that is what it means to walk in the Spirit, you do what God tells you to do; then you feel good. If you don’t you won’t have that peace.
Can you just imagine how Jesus’ disciples felt the next day after they buried Jesus. What He said in the garden probably haunted them;“Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?”
What advice did He give them? He told them, and it a lesson for us today. He said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
“Watch” in other words be alert, be prepared because you will be tempted. Expect to be tempted. We need to be ready because our flesh is weak.
And He also told them to pray, to do what He was doing. In Luke’s account it tells us that as Jesus agonized in prayer an angel came to Him and strengthened Him (Luke 22:43). No angel went to the apostle to strengthen them because they were sleeping. I wonder many times God sends His angel to help us sight unseen when we cry out to Him in prayer of faith?
So the lesson for today, Jesus said that if we watch and pray it will help us when temptations come (and they will come). The flesh is weak and wants to give in, but the spirit is willing to do what’s right… choose who you are going to listen to.
(Sermon series based on material produced by J. Myers)