Excerpts from Mark 14 out of the NASB
14:27 a “And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away . . .’ ”
14:29 “But Peter said to Him, ‘Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.’ ”
14:30 “And Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, that you yourself this very night, before a rooster crows twice, shall three times deny Me.’ “
14:31 “But Peter kept saying insistently, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ And they were all saying the same thing too.”
You know how you can read a passage that you’ve read hundreds of times before but by the power of the Holy Spirit along with the living and active reality of God’s Word, you can be struck by a brand new thought, a brand new application? That happened to me recently as I made my way through Mark chapter 14.
In Mark 14 we find Jesus and His disciples just finishing up their Passover meal. They sang a hymn and set out for the Mt. of Olives. Dinner was over but their discussion continued with Jesus speaking once more of His impending betrayal. Peter and the rest of the boys just couldn’t wrap their minds around the seemingly preposterous suggestions Jesus was making.
Listen to the adjective used in verse 31 to describe Peter’s protests, “But Peter kept saying insistently, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ ” Notice the rest of that verse informs us that Peter wasn’t alone. They were all saying the same thing. The disciples’ spirits were so willing, so sincere.
And you know what, I’m right there with them. My heart longs to love Jesus purely. My inner-woman desires to stand firm. From deep within me a fervent cry erupts: even if I have to die for you Jesus, I will. A willing spirit – that’s what I have.
Shortly after Peter and the gang voice their objections, they reach the end of their evening stroll. Jesus has led them into the Garden of Gethsemane. Instructions follow: “Sit here until I have prayed (14:32).” Moving further into the garden shadows, Jesus takes Peter, James and John along for support. Christ’s vulnerability is astounding. Verse 33 reveals that He, ” . . . began to be very distressed and troubled.” Then Jesus says to them (verse 34), “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.”
If you’re familiar with this passage, you’ll remember that Christ agonizes in conversation with His Father. He’s literally dying – dying to self, surrendering His will and embracing the Father’s whatever the cost. What’s most appalling is that while the Savior is sweating drops of blood, His servants are snoozing. Those same self-proclaimed passionate, devoted, willing-spirited servants can’t keep their eyes open.
Interestingly enough, three different times Jesus wakes them and employs them to pray. Did you catch that? Three times. I never noticed the significance of those three encounters. Long before Peter’s infamous courtyard denial (which happens later on this same night), Peter’s already chosen self over Savior. In essence, He’s already denied Christ by not denying himself.
Jesus defines the problem in 14:38. Basically it’s a matter of weak flesh. “Keep watching and praying, that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Once again, I’m right there with Peter and the rest. Willing spirit but weak flesh. I must choose to deny myself daily, take up my cross just as Jesus took up His, and follow Him. Denying self in “small” ways (like giving up sleep to wrestle in prayer) prepares me so that in the “big” courtyard situations of life I’ll be ready.
What if Peter had prayed in the Garden? Would the courtyard denial have turned out differently? What if you and I, as disciples of Christ, pray – really pray? How would our lives be lived differently?
Ponder this rebuke from Jim Cymbala in his stirring work Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire:
“Does anyone really think that America today is lacking preachers, books, Bible translations, and neat doctrinal statements? What we really lack is the passion to call upon the Lord until He opens the heavens and shows Himself powerful.”
Weak flesh doesn’t have to be an obstacle to the willing spirit. It can be a catalyst – a motivator to yield to the Spirit. Because I am weak, and because I know I am weak, I pray. When we are weak, He is strong!
Do you have a willing spirit? Do you battle weak flesh? Will you join me and numerous others who are determined to call upon the Lord until He opens the heavens and shows Himself powerful?