- Sermon Notes
Power in Weakness
When Jesus and the disciples finish their Passover supper, they leave Jerusalem and head east toward the Mount of Olives. Their day actually began in the evening, so this, then, is the day in which Jesus is going to be betrayed, arrested, and crucified.
Once they cross over the Kidron Valley, they enter the Garden of Gethsemane which is at the base of the Mount of Olives. Jesus and the disciples have been staying there each evening while they were in Jerusalem.
Remember that Jesus had warned them that they would all fall away on account of Him. He had specifically warned Peter that Satan had demanded permission to sift him like wheat, but that Jesus was praying for him that his faith would not fail. Peter would surely fail, Jesus was saying, but was praying that his faith would not fail, the greatest defeat of all.
Peter then responded that he was ready to go both to prison and to death with Jesus and then boldly asserted, “Though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus responded, “Peter, the cock will not grow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.”
They would all fail, but the one who was more sure of himself than any of the others, was the one who would fail the most.
When they arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus then took with Him Peter, James and John. He was going to spend the next several hours in prayer and asked those closest to Him to come along. But in prayer, He needed to be alone with His Father. But He warned them to be alert and pray. Here, too, they failed.
You could say this is a story about human failure, but that’s only part of the story. The other part is that God is on the move, He, not in spite of, but because of our human failure is going to demonstrate love like this world has never seen before.
I. The Spirit is Willing, but the Flesh is Weak
- When Jesus withdrew from them, He first told them to be in prayer, but when He returned to them, He found them sleeping.
- From another gospel we know that He then said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?”
- He then gave them this powerful insight, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
- Three times He withdrew to be alone in prayer with His Father, and each time they fell asleep.
A. The spirit and flesh are in conflict
- When Jesus comes back from praying, He finds Peter, James and John asleep each time. We can all understand the power that sleep has over us.
- There are times, of course, when getting sleep is the perfectly right thing to do. If you’re driving, be safe, and get some sleep.
Illus – When I was young, I was driving and pulled over to take a nap, but forgot to turn off the car…
When I was in seminary, I would sometimes take my headphones and listen to Chuck Smith teaching through the Bible. I tried to always stay awake, but I admit there were times I napped …But those were also some of the most spiritual naps I ever took.
- After admonishing them Jesus said, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." That's wisdom. That's the truth; and that is something we absolutely must understand about ourselves.
- When He says that the spirit is willing, it recognizes that our spirit desires spiritual things. We want to read God’s Word, to pray, to stand in victory over sin, etc.
- When Peter promised that he wouldn’t fall away and was ready to die with Jesus, he meant it; he meant it with all his heart.
- We may have the best of intentions and the greatest desires, but our problem is that the flesh is weak.
- There is a battle within all of us between the spirit and the flesh.
Galatians 5:17, The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
- Notice in that verse it says, “that you may not do the things that you please.”
- Our identification is in the spirit; that is who we are, now that we are in Christ.
Illus – if you were to be completely honest while in sin, you would say that this is not what you really want to do.
- Jesus came in the flesh with its weakness and frailty, but we also see that He overcame His flesh by the power of the Spirit.
B. The weakness of the flesh is great trouble
- They lacked sleep, so they failed in prayer.
- Fear and doubt will cause Peter to deny the Lord, even with cussing.
- We lack food and we become irritable…
- Things go wrong and we become easily frustrated and impatient.
- The weakness of the flesh is a great trouble.
- The word “flesh” has several meanings in the Greek, but it commonly means the urges, the passions, and the desires of the body. It is the earthly part of man.
- However, it’s important to understand that the flesh is not able to subject itself to God.
Romans 8:7-8, The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
- One of the great lessons we learn from these verses, however, is the power of prayer and the significance of prayer in Jesus’ relationship to His Father and therefore ours as well.
- Jesus told them to pray that they may not enter into temptation. Prayer then, is a key to victory. But especially prayer that recognizes our weakness and trusts in God’s strength.
- We must therefore be on our guard – be on the alert and set our minds on the things of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 16:13, Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
1 Peter 5:8-9, Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith.
Romans 8:1-7 Walk according to the Spirit
- Jesus prayed; prayer keeps us close to God, the very place we need to be.
Psalm 73:28, But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge…
- The prayer of Jesus here gives us insight into what Jesus was going through as He knowingly faced what He must endure as payment for our sins.
- We are then allowed into the intimacy of Jesus’ relationship to His Father as He prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but Your will be done."
- But consider for a moment the Father's perspective as He heard this prayer and saw the anguish of His Son, even sweating blood as He prayed.
- A father's heart is such that he would want to spare his son, and you see the Father's heart beautifully and powerfully in this story.
John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life."
- In verse 43 we read that an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. Again we see the Father's heart who sent the angel.
Illus – When do you know when you have a father’s heart? When you see their pain and feel it. When our daughter, Nicole, was nine years old, she went through a mysterious illness; I understood what it means to have a father’s heart.
II. Our Battle is Not against Flesh and Blood
- After the last time Jesus found them sleeping, He said, "Behold, the hour is at hand…"
- While He was still speaking, Judas came up and gave Him a kiss, the agreed upon signal so the multitude would know whom to seize.
- What I find amazing is that Jesus then responded to him, "Friend…"
A. Live by the sword, die by the sword
- We know from another gospel that it was Peter who then drew out his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. His name was Malchus.
- Jesus’ correction of Peter is filled with insight for all of us. First of all, Peter could have gotten himself into serious trouble here.
- It's a fair assumption that Peter, being a fisherman, and not skilled with a sword was not going for the man's ear. He would have to be Zorro to be that accurate. I submit he was trying to take off the man's head.
- Therefore, when Jesus reached out and healed Malchus, he was saving Peter from himself.
- But He continued in power, as we read in Matthew… "Those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword." There was something being done of far greater consequence and Peter didn't understand it, not yet.
- When we react in the flesh in times of crisis, we completely miss what God is trying to do through it all.
- Your husband, wife, children, boss, neighbor, are not your enemy; in fact, when we react in the flesh we are giving the enemy a foothold in our lives.
Ephesians 4:26 -27, Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.
B. The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh
- The point we need to gain for our lives is that we are in a spiritual battle and the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh.
- In verses 52-53, Jesus said the reason they did not lay hands on Him in broad daylight while He was in the temple was because they operated in the power of darkness.
Ephesians 5:8-15 Walk as children of the light
2 Corinthians 10:3, For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
Ephesians 6:12, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
- One of the greatest lessons of this section of scripture is to realize that all of us have weakness, all of us have this body of flesh, but God sent His Spirit so that we would walk in newness of life because we are walking in close relationship to Him. That is our victory.
Galatians 5:16, But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
Luke 22:39-56 NASB