Matthew 26:36-75 (NKJV)
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”
39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” 40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”
47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. 51 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. 52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” 55 In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me. 56 But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.
57 And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’ ” 62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” 64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 66 What do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.” 67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?”
69 Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.” 71 And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” 73 And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.” 74 Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We see this in all the disciples, but especially Peter. He is bold in spirit. On their way to Gethsemane, Peter tells Jesus, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (v.35). Yet, he lacks the strength to watch even an hour with Christ. His spirit briefly revives when Judas arrives with an armed multitude to arrest Jesus, he drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear (see John 18:10). Yet when Jesus submits to arrest to fulfill the Scriptures, all the disciples—including Peter—forsook Him and fled. Instead of remaining with Jesus, “Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard and sat with the servants to see the end.” When a servant girl—not a soldier—confronts Peter, he denies his Lord. Sin begets more sin, so one denial cascades into three. Peter, whose spirit had been so eager, lapsed into more and more sin because he let his sinful flesh’s desires reign over him.
Like Peter, our spirit—the inward man of faith which the Holy Spirit creates in us—is eager. We say with St. Paul in Romans 7:22, “I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.” But like Peter, we live in the sinful flesh, so that we can say along with Paul, “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:23). Compared to the spirit God renews in us, our flesh is weak. But if we consent to the flesh’s desires, like Peter, we sin. And if we sin, we, too, should weep bitterly as Peter did, sorrowing over our sin, seeking forgiveness from God, with the desire to amend our lives. Like Peter, we comfort ourselves with the gospel that if we truly confess our sins, God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). The gospel fortifies our spirits so that we may be not only be eager and willing to confess Christ and live godly lives, it gives us the power to do so.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, strengthen us with might in the inner man through Your Holy Spirit, so that we may not consent to the desires of the flesh, but, fulfill our spirit’s eager desire to live holy lives according to Your Word. Amen.