Matthew 26:41 "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
We all sort of know the text from St Paul,Romans 7:18-19 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
And while it may appear that if the flesh is weak, the answer is a program of physical fitness to improve the strength of the weak flesh. This is not the answer that Jesus gives in our text. What is the answer? Watch and Pray! Why, watch and pray? Because I cannot tell you how many times I have heard "the good I would, I do not" used as an excuse for not even trying, after all, no one is perfect. Imagine some one saying to Jesus, I know that you have asked me to watch with you, but Iím kind of tired, and Iíll probably just fall asleep. Why wouldnít we say that? Because the spirit God has put in us wants to watch with Jesus, but when faced with temptation, we failed.
And that is what I really want to talk about, temptation. Our language has become somewhat perverted, for there should be no such thing as a temptation to do something good. Temptation should always be a temptation to sin, or a temptation to do evil. Temptations are a testing, and there is one question, Are you really a child of God? If we are a child of God, there is only one thing we will want to do, and that is Godís will. If we are a child of God, not only is there only one thing we want to do, but only one way in which it might be done, and that is by the grace of God. That is, the child of God will always look to God for the strength to do all the things that they do. This makes temptation pretty easy, for if the only question is, are we a child of God, then everything else is suddenly gone and the decisions are much clearer. You see we complicate this whole temptation thing by only looking at a part, and then we forget who we are.
Sometimes we may know exactly what God wants done, but instead of looking to the grace of God, we turn to ourselves, or we turn to something other than God. After all if we are doing Godís will, it shouldnít matter how it gets done, so long as it is done, and if it is done, then we have been working for God. Any means, to justify the ends Ė this is NOT Godís will, and this is NOT how the child of God has been called to live. So we watch and pray, that we might not enter into this sort of temptation.
The more common temptation however is one which looses sight of Godís will. There are a great number of things we can do, and do them without the benefit of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. One of the phrases to describe this lifestyle is doing what comes naturally. And here again we see some of the perversion which has crept into our language. For what a child of God does naturally, is always done by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, that is anything we accomplish, is really God working in us and through us. On the other hand, everything that the "natural man" does is sinful. And when it comes to the natural man, we are not talking about a level playing field, that fell with the original sin, and it has been downhill ever since. Natural man begins on the slippery slope, and doing what comes naturally only means sliding deeper in to sin and destruction. But it is not something which one can boast of, for it is not accomplishment. It is a story of man who fell into the mud and mire, and never even tried to climb out. How do we deal with the temptation? Watch and pray! The law will certainly show us our sins, and hearing the gospel moves us to pray that someone would lift us out of the muck and mire Ė and the grace of God comes and lifts us out, cleanses us, makes us a new creation, and we are reborn as children of God.
Our spirit really wants to live as children of God, and really wants to do the right thing, doing Godís will in Godís way, and seeking Godís grace to strengthen us. We make even make promises about all the things we will do to the glory of God. But the thing which is oft repeated, is not what we have done, but rather what God in Christ has done for us.
We have been unfaithful, but God has remained faithful. We by our sins have fallen, but God, through the sacrifice of his only Son has purchased and won for us forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. And that is part of the great mystery of the Passion, we may never be able to understand the depth of Godís great love for us in Jesus Christ, or how he could die, not for those who are noble and worthy, but to die for sinners like us. Die that we might be born again, a child of God.