So the Lord Jesus was experiencing a pain and anxiety that is barely imaginable to you and me: the sin of the ages descending on Him like a black cloud, transferring to Him like a deadly disease, isolating Him while the Father’s back begins to turn. Jesus was needing His brothers to pray for Him.
But though ‘the spirit is willing’, (Jesus said), ‘the flesh is weak’ – meaning the intent to pray at a ‘heart level’ is there but the body couldn’t care less. We can see this as Jesus’ hard core spiritual Marines, His Rabbinic elite who loved Him dearly, were exhausted with sorrow so that they simply couldn’t stay awake even for an hour to pray for Him.
But Jesus didn’t say:- “the spirit is willing, and the body is weak; truly I say unto thee, therefore, don’t worry about it, do what you can but make sure that thou mans up’. No. Instead, Jesus states the reality of the spirit and the flesh and then encourages the sleepy heads to ‘watch’ anyway. He didn’t start exhorting them to be stronger in order to line up with the strength of their spiritual desire and then pray; He told them to watch while they were weak. It’s worth saying again: Jesus told His slightly-slow-to-understand hard-core to ‘watch from weakness‘ (when they didn’t feel like it, or when they didn’t feel as though they were worthy or powerful); to actually pray despite all of their contradictions of willingness and weakness.
What does that mean for us now?
1) The tension of this sanctified cocktail of spiritual strength and physical weakness is the potent blend of Kingdom identity we’re called to, and sent from, as we lead ourselves, and others, with a limp.
Solomon’s bride herself realised ‘dark am I…yet lovely’. The wise, powerful King Solomon saw her darkness (Jesus, our darkness of heart) and still concluded that she was radiantly lovely. (Yes, Jesus is unimaginably stoked with you while you struggle to keep your eyes open).
2) The Apostle’s specific struggle with sleepiness is a picture of our more general struggle with the flesh – of lust, anger, anxiety, indifference, luke-warmness, jealousy, insecurity – Jesus sees and knows and has banked on our physical frailties and still tells us to watch!
This strikes me anew that when we are at our weakest, our darkest, our most ‘sleepy’, that we are NONETHELESS called to stand up, watch and pray.
Jesus is coming! Let us stand up and shake ourselves; let’s watch from weakness, but, for God’s sake, let’s watch. The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak, and we’re still called to watch and pray