Archive for May, 2012

Willing Spirit, Weak Flesh

And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?  Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Matthew 26:40-41

Do these verses ever describe us?   “…the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  I would have to be the first to raise my hand and the first to say amen to that.  The context of this statement is Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.  He was praying in great agony, looking forward to the agony of the cross.  He left a few of his disciples to “tarry ye here, and watch with me.” (vs. 38)  When He came back, He found them asleep.  It was the most agonizing part of His life, and His most trusted disciples fell asleep.  We could look down on them for that, but, truth be told, we would likely have done the exact same thing.

Instead of berating them, Jesus offered them some great advice.  “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation…”  If we want to avoid temptation, we need to “watch and pray.”  Have you ever noticed that temptation seems to hit us when we are at our most vulnerable?  That is because we are not watching and praying.  Simply paying attention and praying will help us avoid temptation.

After giving them this advice, Jesus gave them a brilliant insight into the nature or man.  “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  If that isn’t true, I don’t know what is.  Every one of us wants to do right.  We all want to serve the Lord.  Our spirits really are willing.  When we wake up in the morning, we want to have a wonderful day living for the Lord.

But how often do we fail?  We fail because, while our spirit is willing, our flesh is very weak.  How do we overcome that weak flesh?  “Watch and pray.”  Perfect insight into the human condition and perfect advice from Jesus.

Thy Will Be Done

And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

Matthew 26:39

In this verse, Jesus is praying to the Father in the garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion.  It is important to notice that, although He asks the Father to “let this cup pass from me,”  He is ultimately submissive to the Father’s will: “nevertheless not as I will but as thou wilt.”  We can learn an important lesson in the area of submissiveness and following the will of God from this verse.  As always, Jesus is our perfect example.

Jesus knew what was coming.  He knew the agony that He would endure.  But, in the end, He was submissive to the will of the Father, just as we should be.

We all know what we want.  We usually want things that would add to our comfort in one way or another, or would help ease our discomfort in one way or another.  The Bible tells us “no man ever yet hated his own flesh.” (Ephesians 5:29)  We don’t naturally want to go through any trials or face any problems.  But we don’t always know what the Father wants.

Whatever it is that the Father wills, we need to be submissive to it.  We need to be always prepared to sacrifice our own will to the will of the Father.  We can’t see everything that the Father can see.  We don’t know what effect things will have, but the Father does know exactly what effect everything will have.  We should never put our will above that our Father.  Even Jesus Himself did not put His will over that of the Father.  With that kind of example, what kind of excuse do we have?

The Boasting of the Disciples

Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.  But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.  Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.  Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.  Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.  Likewise also said all the disciples.

Matthew 26:31-35

Peter often gets ridiculed for his mouth and his propensity to say ridiculous things, and this case is no different.  When Jesus told the disciples that they would be “offended because of me,” Peter said that even if everyone else was offended, he would never be and that, if necessary, he would die with Jesus.

We all know the story of what happened to Peter that night.  He did indeed deny the Lord Jesus three times and he didn’t even realize it until hearing the cock crow and seeing Jesus.  We like to pile on to Peter for his boasting, but I had never really looked at the end of verse 35: “Likewise also said all the disciples.”

It wasn’t just Peter who boasted of staying beside the Lord.  He wasn’t the only one who said that he would never be “scattered.”  They all said the same thing.  And they were all wrong.

One of the lessons we can take from this passage is to watch out for boasting.  We have a tendency to boast (sometimes only to ourselves) about our devotion to the Lord.  We would never be offended because of Him!  But we had better watch our hearts, and we had better make sure that we keep our eyes on Him instead of on our own devotion to Him.

A Merry Medicine

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

I have been doing some reading and researching lately about health: eating healthier, exercising, and just living an overall healthy lifestyle.  One of the things that I keep coming across is the simple truth given to us in this verse.  I have seen “a merry heart” coming up in discussions about helping your heart, lowering your blood pressure, easing or eliminating everything from headaches to heartburn, and strengthening the brain.

Just being a happy, contented person can cure or, at the very least, help with many diseases and ailments.  How do we get this “merry heart medicine?”  Being thankful and content seems to go a long way toward being a merry person.  When we are not thankful, we get to thinking that we deserve whatever it is that we have or want.  When we are not content with what the Lord has given us, we tend to become greedy for things that He does not want us to have.  Simply remembering that everything we have because of the mercy and grace of the Lord.

Forgiveness also seems to play a part.  If we are not forgiving people, we will eventually become bitter.  And bitterness is something that literally just eats away at us, including our physical health.

Happiness, thankfulness and forgiveness all work together to make us “merry,” and help us – like a medicince.

On the other hand, “a broken spirit drieth the bones.”  As much as being a happy, contented person can help our health, a broken spirit can hurt it.  There are people who seem to be plagued by illness, and their main problem is their broken spirit.  In some cases, the broken spirit is self-inflicted and in some cases, it is broken by someone else.  But whatever the reason, the result is the same: “drieth the bones.”

The Bible is profitable for “doctrine…,” but in addition to doctrine, the Bible is also profitable for practical, everyday things.  If you need a medicine, try a merry heart!

I Hear the Saviour Say (Hymn)

I Hear the Saviour Say
Elvina Hall (1865)

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”


Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.


And now complete in Him
My robe His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side,
I am divinely blest.


Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.


When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.


And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down
All down at Jesus’ feet.


I have always heard the name of this hymn as “Jesus Paid It All,” but no matter what you call it, this is one of my favourites.  My strength is indeed small, and Jesus did indeed pay it all.  Sin had left a huge stain on me, and He did wash it white as snow.  It’s as if every verse in this hymn is directed right at me.  Every one speaks directly to me.   I think my favourite verse might be “For nothing good have I whereby Thy grace to claim, I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.”  Amen to that!

Scattered But Not Forsaken

Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.  But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.

Matthew 26:31-32

In this passage, Jesus is explaining to His disciples what is going to happen to Him.  He predicts that they will be offended because of Him, and that they will be scattered (which they were).  “I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.”

Jesus was crucified and His disciples were scattered.  Peter, who boasted that he would never betray Him, betrayed Him three times.  It was obviously going to be an awful time for Jesus, but it was also going to be very difficult for His disciples.  They were going to be afraid.  And they were going to “be scattered.”

These things were all true and they happened exactly as foretold by the Lord.  But notice in this passage the tenderness and mercy of the Great Shepherd.  “But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.”  Even though He knew that they would be “offended because of me,” He still told them that He would rise again and that, when He did, He would lead them.

The disciples would lose their courage and Jesus knew that.  He also knows that we often lose our courage.  But even in those weak moments, when we are afraid and have lost our courage, He is still our Lord and He still helps us and loves us.  He knew that they would be scattered, but He also knew that He would not forsake them and He told them this.

Though sometimes we may find ourselves scattered and confused, we can be sure that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Sold Out

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you?  And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.  And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.

Matthew 26:14-16

We all know that Jesus was betrayed by Judas.  But what we might not think about is the fact that, not only did he betray Him, but he actively “sought opportunity” to betray him.  It wasn’t just a moment of weakness or fear of the priests if he didn’t do what they told him to do.

I think that most people get the false impression that the priests initiated this “deal.”  But it was Judas who went to them and asked what they would give him to betray Jesus.  They decided on thirty pieces of silver, but Judas started the whole thing.

Imagine not only selling out the Lord Jesus, but wanting to sell Him out, offering to sell Him out, and seeking opportunities to sell Him out.  Thirty pieces of silver doesn’t seem like that much to me.  Definitely not enough to sell out and betray an innocent man.  Judas had been with Jesus during His earthly ministry.  He had seen the miracles: the blind given sight, the lame made to walk, the deaf caused to hear, and the sick made whole.  He saw evil spirits being cast out of people and saw Jesus’ tender mercies toward the multitudes.

What could possibly have been in his heart to sell out Jesus?  Was he really that greedy?  Was he really that desperate for a handful of silver?  Or did he just have nothing in his heart?  Whatever it was, may it never come near our hearts.

Judas sold Him out for thirty pieces of silver.  Others have sold Him out for much less.  Let us never be among them.

A Memorial

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.  But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?  For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.  When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman?  for she hath wrought a good work upon me.  For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.  For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.  Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

Matthew 26:6-13

The end of this passage says “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.”  I don’t know how much “preaching” I do on this blog, but I do try to proclaim “this gospel,” and, because of the nature of the internet, it literally does go to “the whole world.”  This post is going to be about giving everything to Jesus, and, as such, it is a memorial to this woman who gave Jesus her most valuable possession.  When you think about it, this post is a tiny fulfillment of prophecy.  Interesting.

Anyway, the disciples didn’t understand this gift.  They were thinking as men – they were thinking that the ointment should be sold and the money given to help the poor.  But she wanted to give it to Jesus.  This “precious ointment” was likely her most valuable possession.  And she gave it to Jesus.

What is most valuable to us?  Have we given it to Jesus?  Could a memorial be given about us?

All Outside, No Inside

Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.  Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of uncleanness.  Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 

Matthew 23:24-28

Jesus had nothing positive to say about the Pharisees, ever.  In this passage, He tells them exactly what they are in their hearts.  He goes on for fifteen verses about how these scribes and Pharisees have everything on the outside and nothing on the inside.

In these verses, He calls them hypocrites twice (with a third time coming in the next verse).  He calls them blind, whited sepulchres, full of uncleanness, hypocrisy and iniquity.  There is nothing good about this and there is nothing good about the way these Pharisees and scribes lived their lives.

The Pharisees were concerned only with the outside.  They wanted to look good and sound good, but they didn’t have anything inside.  They didn’t have any truth, mercy, judgment, and honesty inside.  They were the “whited sepulchres,” clean and nice on the outside, but filthy on the inside.  They were “blind guides;” they wanted to be leaders and they wanted everyone looking up to them and following them, but there was nothing there to look up to or to follow.

Everything the Pharisees did was for show.  There was nothing in their hearts.  What is in our hearts?  Would it match what our “outward display?”

Missing the Forest for the Trees

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.  Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

Matthew 23:23-24

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He showed kindness, mercy and compassion to many, many people.  He helped people with their problems, healed them of their diseases, and forgave their sins.  He had a heart for the multitudes and the sinners.  But He reserved His harshest words for the self-righteous Pharisees.  They were the great religious leaders of the day who rejected Jesus.

Here He tells the Pharisees that they are hypocrites, and then tells them why they are hypocrites.  They do all of the little things just right.  They dot their i’s and cross their t’s just so.  Outwardly, they keep the letter of the law down to the smallest detail.  But they “omit the weightier matter of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.”

They’ve got their tithes of “mint and anise and cummin” down right, but they forgot those “little” things like judgment, mercy and faith.  They were the “perfumed pigs” of the day.  They looked good and smelled good, but they were rotten to their core.

How often have been so worried about dotting our “i’s” and crossing our “t’s” just right that we have left bigger things not done?  Now, we should try to dot our “i’s” and cross our “t’s” to the best of our ability.  But we should not do those smaller things to the detriment of the bigger things.

We can make our own applications to our own lives, but we definitely need to make sure that we do not act like these Pharisees in missing the forest for the trees.