The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

peter I want to share the truths that we learned from our morning service at church. Our senior pastor, Vasile Filat, preached a wonderful sermon from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 14. The theme of the sermon comes from verse 38 of the above mentioned book and chapter.

38 “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation ; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14)

These words were addressed to Simon Peter so we will look at his life and see where the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak.

I. Peter trusted in himself too much, instead of fully trusting in God which caused him not to listen to Jesus’ warning.

27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, because it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP SHALL BE SCATTERED.’ 28 “But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 29 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.” 31 But Peter kept saying insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing also. (Mark 14)

Jesus, the Great Teacher, spoke plainly and clearly yet Peter did not believe what Jesus had to say because he trusted in his spiritual maturity (the willingness of the spirit) and neglected the fact that the flesh is weak. Peter should have headed Jesus’ warning yet he was almost arrogant in his response. Even if the rest of these spiritually mature men (the other 11 disciples) turn away, I never will. I am willing to die if needed.

II. Peter was weak when it came to praying for the impossible.

32 They came to a place named Gethsemane ; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death ; remain here and keep watch.” 35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba ! Father ! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” 37 And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep ? Could you not keep watch for one hour ? 38 “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation ; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy ; and they did not know what to answer Him. 41 And He came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting ? It is enough ; the hour has come ; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 “Get up, let us be going ; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand !” (Mark 14)

Jesus was 100% divine and 100% human at the same time. He had the same weaknesses as we have. He hungered and thirsted. He felt pain and distress. He prayed that the cup that was placed before Him would be taken away and asked the disciples to do the same. Peter, the spiritual man who trusted in his spiritual maturity did not have the strength, physically speaking, to stay alert and pray for Christ in this time of distress. His flesh was weak once again. This should have been a sign for Peter, that he was not as spiritually mature as he thought and that he needed to pay more attention to what Jesus had said.

III. Peter continued to trust in himself too much and it is shown in his confrontation in the garden when Jesus was taken captive.

43 Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.” 45 After coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, “Rabbi !” and kissed Him. 46 They laid hands on Him and seized Him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. (Mark 14)

Conflict and confrontation are inevitable in life, yet there are ways that they are to be resolved. The fleshly way is to blow up and attack the other person as an enemy. The spiritual way to resolve problems is much different. It is not led by the emotions, which can boil over and become violent. Peter was led by his emotions in this case and tried to solve the problem with violence. He was trusting in his flesh, which was weak, and he lost control. Fighting was not the way to go. Jesus resolved the conflict differently. He healed the man whose ear had been severed. He cooperated in order to calm down the tense situation. He submitted to the will of God instead of being led by the emotions of the flesh. The contrast between Jesus and Peter is very obvious. One is trusting in the flesh which is weak and the other is trusting in the spirit and allowing God’s will to be done. This should have been another sign for Peter, for him to come to his senses yet he did not learn.

IV. Peter showed his ultimate act of weakness, by denying Jesus 3 times in the face of heavy persecution.

66 As Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Nazarene.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” And he went out onto the porch. and a rooster crowed. 69 The servant-girl saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders, “This is one of them!” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too.” 71 But he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man you are talking about!” 72 Immediately a rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And he began to weep. (Mark 14)

All the others had fled (just as Jesus had predicted) and Peter had remained faithful (just as he said he would do). It seems that Peter was right and Jesus was wrong. Then accusations and persecutions began and Peter’s weakness is finally revealed to him. He realizes that his spirit is willing yet his flesh is weak. He finally realized that he had been trusting in himself too much instead of trusting in God and listening to what Jesus had to say. He began to weep at the revelation.

The question is, what do I do now that I know that the spirit is willing yet the flesh is weak?

I. Realize who God is and trust in Him instead of ourselves (our flesh). Peter realized who Jesus was and he did trust in Him, but not completely. That was a lesson that he still had to learn. Look at how Peter addresses Jesus Christ upon meeting Him.

4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break ; 7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord !” (Luke 5)

Most people view God as a genie who is there to grant all of their wishes. Peter may have had reason to do this since he just saw what Jesus had done, yet he did not. He realizes that Jesus is God. Peter trusted in Christ, although he still had much to learn. That is the first step in overcoming our weak flesh, we have to realize who we are, who God is, and learn to depend on Him fully.

II. Live your life in order to carry out God’s plans and not your own. After Peter had denied Jesus 3 times, after Jesus had been tried, crucified, buried, and resurrected, Peter decided to go back to his old way of life (and take his friends with him). He went back to fishing, probably thinking that he was not worthy of carrying out the task that Jesus had given to him because of his betrayal.

3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat ; and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach ; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish. 9 So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three ; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. (John 21)

Jesus had not given up on Peter and the others, even though they probably had given up on themselves. He came and found them and revealed Himself to them in such a way that they would know who He was. Peter recognized the situation and immediately ran to Christ. Jesus forgives Peter, restores him, and reminds him of the calling that he received and was not carrying out.

15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these ?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord ; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord ; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things ; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep. (John 21)

Peter had denied Jesus 3 times and Jesus reaffirms Peter’s love 3 times. Peter is restored. Peter is also reminded of his calling (not to catch fish) but to lead people into a relationship with God. Peter was never the same after this. He went on to lead a group of men who literally turned the world upside down, which still has consequences to this very day.

What about you? Do you realize that even if your spirit is willing your flesh is weak? Do you trust in yourself more than you should? Do you fully realize who God is and what He can accomplish through you if you will just move out of the way, fully submit to Him, and watch in amazement? Do you live your life in order to carry out God’s plans or your own? Are you ready to be forgiven and restored by the God of the universe (no matter what you have done in the past)? If so, God is ready, able, and willing to do all of this for you, just as He was ready to do for Peter. Let’s learn from Peter’s virtues and mistakes so that we can live an abundant life for the Lord here on this earth the way that He wants. May God help us apply His Word.


4 comments on “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

  1. Pingback: Letting Down Our Nets 011412 « Mennonite Preacher

  2. Can I use some of your points. I am wanting to speak on denying Jesus in the flesh, but standing up for the truth in spirit

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