Today’s bible study is from the Gospel of Mathew 26:41: Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Did you manage to avoid temptation this Thanksgiving? Did you pass up that second helping of turkey or pumpkin pie? How often have we replied, ‘The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,’ when we just couldn’t avoid temptation?
Is this what Matthew was speaking of so long ago? If it is, what are we watching for and praying about? Are we likely to fall into temptation other than our own lack of energy and work ethic? Here we shall do a little research to bring this familiar and often quoted passage, into context and historically accurate meaning.
Matthew is actually writing about abandonment, betrayal and arrest. Matthew follows the narrative of Mark closely, but with subtle alterations that shift the focus of the presentation from the failure of the disciples to the sovereignty of Jesus, who continues to be the teacher who embodies his teaching in his own life.
In these verses, Jesus falls prostrate before God in prayer, literally on his face as he has done before and as the disciples have also done. Matthew explicitly delineates three periods of prayer, shifting the focus from the failure of the disciples to Jesus as himself a model of prayer.
The concept of the willingness of the spirit and the weakness of the flesh is not a dualistic anthropology but represents two aspects of the whole person that struggle with each other. Jesus himself is caught up in this struggle, and his prayer moves from praying for deliverance from death to trust and commitment to God’s will, using the identical words he had taught his disciples earlier.
His three prayers form a dramatic contrast to the three denials of Peter, who had slept instead of praying. After the prayer, Jesus is resolute and sovereign and announces the arrival of the betrayer in words that also connote the advent of the kingdom.
Perhaps these will not help us much when we simply feel too weary to do what we want to do or wish we could do. But it will help us understand the prayers of Jesus and his desire to recognize the power of God almighty, as we do in our own prayers each day.
References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur, Concise Bible Commentary, David S. Dockery, General Editor
You might also like to read:
- Broad Brook Bible Study Examiner, Grace Dooley
- Evangelical Examiner, Jake Jones
- Atlanta Bible Study Examiner, Donna Sundblad
- Kentucky Bible Study Examiner, Timothy Edwards
- Bible Verse of the Day
- Daily Bible Guide
- Growing in Christ
- Bible Study Tools Online
- The Jesus Walk Bible Study Series
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