Before His betrayal Jesus went unto Gethsemane to pray. He took Peter, James and John aside and asked them to “abide here, and watch”.(Mk 14:34). He “went forward a little” and prayed that He might not have to endure the torment of Golgotha. When Jesus returned, the three disciples slept. The Lord lovingly rebuked Peter saying, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:37-38).
The description that Jesus gave of Peter, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” is, we fear, also true of His disciples today. We are willing to serve, honor, worship and obey the Savior, but are encumbered with weak flesh. Such is not to excuse, or even an attempt to excuse, our lack of faithfulness. Peter could have watched one hour but did not. We today can “watch” (Matt. 25:13 f; 1 Cor. 16:13), but do we?
God knew that we would have fleshly weaknesses and forewarned us to better prepare us to meet the temptations thus presented. For example, Paul warns us, by inspiration, to “flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18) and to “flee youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22). The temptation becomes overpowering (seemingly) when we have, in disobedience to such commands, placed ourselves in positions of fulfilling “youthful lusts” and of committing fornication.
We know that it is wrong to forsake “our own assembling together” (Heb. 10:25) and that these periods of social worship are for our good (it is a time for “exhorting one another) (Heb. 10:25) and a time “to provoke unto love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). Yet unnumbered saints, knowing that they were not strong enough spiritually teach others and ground them in the faith (they had not done it before while in an established congregation), have moved to areas where the Lord’s church was unknown and have returned to the vomit of the world (2 Pet. 2:22).
Back to our question. Do we watch? Well, some do. Some live lives of prayerful watching for the Lord. If we are truly watching for the Lord we will also be praying (Mk 13:13 ff; Lk 21:46; Col 4:2). We cease to watch because we do not “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). We can watch and pray and be faithful unto the Lord. We know that such is possible because the Lord asked us to do so. We can because God promises that no temptation will come that is insurmountable or inescapable (1 Cor. 10:13). We can because the Lord warns us that He “will come as a thief” if we do not watch (Rev. 3:3).
We have, like Peter, been encumbered with weak flesh. We, like Paul, must buffet that body of weak flesh and “bring it into subjection” to the will of Christ Jesus lest “we should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). Our weak flesh can, with the strength that the Lord supplies, be overcome. We can conqueror our weak flesh, for the apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). We can brethren, but will we? We can if we keep our eye on the prize set before us and “Choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season (Phil 3:14 f; Heb 1:25). Remember the words of the psalmist David, “My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps 73:26).