Matthew 26:41
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(41) Watch and pray.—The first word is eminently characteristic of our Lord’s teaching at this period (Matthew 24:42; Matthew 25:13). It became the watchword of the early disciples (1Corinthians 16:13; Colossians 4:2; 1Thessalonians 5:6; 1Peter 5:8). It left its mark in the history of Christendom in the new names of Gregory, and Vigilius, or Vigilantius, “the watcher.”

That ye enter not into temptation—i.e., as in the Lord’s Prayer, to which our Lord manifestly recalls the minds of the disciples—the trial of coming danger and persecution. In their present weakness that trial might prove greater than they could bear, and therefore they were to watch and pray, in order that they might not pass by negligence into too close contact with its power.

The spirit indeed is willing.—Better, ready, or eager. There is a tenderness in the warning which is very noticeable. The Master recognises the element of good, their readiness to go with Him to prison or to death, in their higher nature. But the spirit and the flesh were contrary the one to the other (Galatians 5:17); and therefore they could not do the things that they would, without a higher strength than their own.

26:36-46 He who made atonement for the sins of mankind, submitted himself in a garden of suffering, to the will of God, from which man had revolted in a garden of pleasure. Christ took with him into that part of the garden where he suffered his agony, only those who had witnessed his glory in his transfiguration. Those are best prepared to suffer with Christ, who have by faith beheld his glory. The words used denote the most entire dejection, amazement, anguish, and horror of mind; the state of one surrounded with sorrows, overwhelmed with miseries, and almost swallowed up with terror and dismay. He now began to be sorrowful, and never ceased to be so till he said, It is finished. He prayed that, if possible, the cup might pass from him. But he also showed his perfect readiness to bear the load of his sufferings; he was willing to submit to all for our redemption and salvation. According to this example of Christ, we must drink of the bitterest cup which God puts into our hands; though nature struggle, it must submit. It should be more our care to get troubles sanctified, and our hearts satisfied under them, than to get them taken away. It is well for us that our salvation is in the hand of One who neither slumbers nor sleeps. All are tempted, but we should be much afraid of entering into temptation. To be secured from this, we should watch and pray, and continually look unto the Lord to hold us up that we may be safe. Doubtless our Lord had a clear and full view of the sufferings he was to endure, yet he spoke with the greatest calmness till this time. Christ was a Surety, who undertook to be answerable for our sins. Accordingly he was made sin for us, and suffered for our sins, the Just for the unjust; and Scripture ascribes his heaviest sufferings to the hand of God. He had full knowledge of the infinite evil of sin, and of the immense extent of that guilt for which he was to atone; with awful views of the Divine justice and holiness, and the punishment deserved by the sins of men, such as no tongue can express, or mind conceive. At the same time, Christ suffered being tempted; probably horrible thoughts were suggested by Satan that tended to gloom and every dreadful conclusion: these would be the more hard to bear from his perfect holiness. And did the load of imputed guilt so weigh down the soul of Him of whom it is said, He upholdeth all things by the word of his power? into what misery then must those sink whose sins are left upon their own heads! How will those escape who neglect so great salvation?Watch - See Matthew 26:38. Greater trials are coming on. It is necessary, therefore, still to be on your guard.

And pray - Seek aid from God by supplication, in view of the thickening calamities.

That ye enter not into temptation - That ye be not overcome and oppressed with these trials of your faith so as to deny me. The word "temptation" here properly means what would test their faith in the approaching calamities - in his rejection and death. It would "try" their faith, because, though they believed that he was the Messiah, they were not very clearly aware of the necessity of his death, and they did not fully understand that he was to rise again. They had cherished the belief that he was to establish a kingdom "while he lived." When they should see him, therefore, rejected, tried, crucified, dead - when they should see him submit to all this as if he had not power to deliver himself - "then" would be the trial of their faith; and, in view of that, he exhorted them to pray that they might not so enter temptation as to be overcome by it and fall.

The spirit indeed is willing ... - The mind, the heart is ready and disposed to bear these trials, but the "flesh," the natural feelings, through the fear of danger, is weak, and will be likely to lead you astray when the trial comes. Though you may have strong faith, and believe now that you will not deny me, yet human nature is weak, and shrinks at trials, and you should therefore seek strength from on high. This was intended to excite them, notwithstanding he knew that they loved him, to be on their guard, lest the weakness of human nature should be insufficient to sustain them in the hour of their temptation.

Mt 26:36-46. The Agony in the Garden. ( = Mr 14:32-42; Lu 22:39-46).

For the exposition, see on [1364]Lu 22:39-46.

Ver. 40,41. Mark hath the same, Mark 14:37,38. Luke hath nothing of our Saviour’s going the second or third time, but hath some other passages, which we shall consider by and by; and telleth us but once of his finding the disciples asleep, which we shall also take notice of in their order. Whether Christ came this first time only to Peter, and James, and John, whom he had left nearer to him, or to the other eight, left at a farther distance, I cannot determine, but think the first most probable. He

saith unto Peter, and so to James and John,

What, could ye not watch with me one hour? You, Peter, that even now wert so resolute for me; and you, James and John, that told me, you could drink of the cup whereof I drank, and be baptized with the baptism I should be baptized with; what, do you faint the first time?

Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation. Here he calls them to a greater watching, spiritual watching, in opposition to security, that they might not fall under their temptations. By watching, he directeth them to the use of such means as were within their power to use; by adding

pray, he lets them know, that it was not in their power to stand without God’s help and assistance, which must be obtained by prayer, and upon their praying should not be denied them.

The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak: the spirit, sanctified by Divine grace, is resolved with constancy to perform its duty; but the flesh, the sensitive part, is apt to faint and fall away when terrible temptations assault us: therefore you should earnestly pray for supernatural strength, and be vigilant, lest you be surprised and overcome by them. The words also may have an immediate respect to their being overtaken with sleep in this hour of Christ’s summons, though they resolved affectionately to attend him and cleave to him.

Watch and pray,.... These two are very justly put together. There is, and ought to be, a watching before prayer, and "unto" it; a watching all opportunities, the most suitable and convenient to perform it; and there is a watching in it, both over our hearts, thoughts, words, and gestures, and after it, for a return of it, and answer to it: the reason of this exhortation follows,

that ye enter not into temptation; not that they might not be tempted at all; for none of the saints have been, or are without temptations; and they are needful for them; and it is the will of God they should be attended with them; and he has made gracious provisions for their help and relief under them; but that they might not enter into them, throw themselves in the way of temptation, be surprised by them at an unawares, fall into them headlong, be immersed in them, fall by them, and be overcome with them, so as to forsake Christ, or to deny him:

the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak: meaning either that the evil spirit Satan was very desirous of having them in his hands; very forward and ready to make the onset upon them; was cheerful, alert, and confident of victory; and was strong, robust, and powerful; and they were but flesh and blood, very weak and infirm, and unequal to the enemy; which is a sense not to be despised, seeing it carries in it a very strong reason why they ought to watch and pray, lest they fall into the temptations of such a powerful adversary; see Ephesians 6:12, or else by "spirit" may be meant the soul, as renewed and regenerated by the spirit of God; particularly the principle of grace in it, which is born of the Spirit, and is called by the same name, and which lusts against the flesh, or corrupt nature: this was willing to watch and pray, and guard against falling into temptations; was willing to abide by Christ, and express its love to him every way; but "the flesh", or "body", so the Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions read, is "weak" and infirm, prone to sleep, indulges ease, and unfit to bear trouble, but ready to sink under it, and is for fleeing from it: and so the words contain our Lord's excuse of his disciples in their present circumstances. Munster's Hebrew Gospel reads the words thus, and "indeed the spirit is watchful, but the flesh is weak". The Ethiopic version after this manner, "the spirit desires, and the body is fatigued". The Persic version, contrary both to the letter and sense of the words, renders them, "my spirit is firm, but my body is infirm".

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 26:41. Ἵνα] indicating, not the object of the προσεύχεσθε, but purpose, and that of the watching and praying.

εἰσέλθητε εἰς πειρασμόν] in order that ye may not be betrayed into circumstances in which ye might be led to show yourselves unfaithful to me (into the σκανδαλίζεσθαι of Matthew 26:31). Comp. Matthew 6:13. By watching and praying, as a means of maintaining clearness of judgment, freedom, and a determination to adhere to Christ, they were to avoid getting into such outward circumstances as might prove dangerous to their moral wellbeing. The watching here is no doubt of a physical nature (Matthew 26:40), but the προσεύχεσθαι has the effect of imparting to it the character and sacredness belonging to spiritual watchfulness (Colossians 4:2).

τὸ μὲν πνεῦμα, κ.τ.λ.] a general proposition (all the more telling that it is not introduced with a γάρ), intended to refer, by way of warning, to the circumstances in which the disciples were placed, as though it had been said: ye are no doubt, so far as the principle of your ethical life in its general aim and tendency is concerned, willing and ready to remain true to me; but on the individual side of your nature, where the influence of sense is so strong, you are incapable of resisting the temptations to unfaithfulness by which you are beset. Comp. on John 3:6. Euthymius Zigabenus: ἡ δὲ σὰρξ, ἀσθενὴς οὖσα, ὑποστέλλεται καὶ οὐκ εὐτονεῖ. In order, therefore, to avoid getting into a predicament in which, owing to the weakness in question, you would not be able to withstand the overmastering power of influences fatal to your salvation without the special protection and help of God that are to be obtained through vigilance and prayerfulness, watch and pray!

41. the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak] The touch of clemency mingled with the rebuke is characteristic of the gentleness of Jesus.

Matthew 26:41. Ἵνα μὴ εἰσέλθητε, κ.τ.λ., that ye enter not, etc.) This was to be the subject of their prayer; see Luke 22:40; cf. ἵνα μὴ in ch. Matthew 24:20.—εἰς πειρασμὸν, into temptation) which is close at hand, nay, which is already here.—τὸ μὲν πνεῦμα,[1151] κ.τ.λ., the spirit indeed, etc.) This statement, sin only excepted, was true also of Jesus at that time; see Hebrews 5:7. Therefore He also both watched and prayed, Matthew 26:39-40.—πνεῦμα, spirit) Thence it is that the Apostles mention frequently flesh and spirit.—σὰρξ, flesh) We ought to take this, not as an excuse for torpor, but as an incentive to watchfulness.—ἀσθενὴς, weak) for the right performance of the matter in hand.

[1151] πρόθυμονἀσθενής, willing—weak See Matthew 26:33; Matthew 26:35, and cf. Matthew 26:40.—B. G. V.

Verse 41. - Watch (ye) and pray. A summary of Christian duty. Watchfulness sees temptation coming; prayer gives strength to withstand it. The apostles needed the injunction at this moment; for their great trial was close at hand. That ye enter not (in order that ye may not eater) into temptation. The phrase is usually interpreted to mean either to fall into temptation, to be tempted, or to run wilfully into temptation; but it seems to be better, with Grotius, to take it in the sense of succumbing to, falling under, being vanquished by temptation, like ἐμπίπτειν in 1 Timothy 6:9, "immergi et succumbere." That Peter and the rest were now to be tempted was certain (Luke 22:31, 32), and it was too late to deprecate the trial; but it was right and expedient to ask of God grace to withstand in the evil hour. The spirit (πνεῦμα) indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. This was an added motive for vigilance and prayer. The apostles had shown a certain readiness of spirit when they offered to die with Christ (ver. 35); but the flesh, the material and lower nature, represses the higher impulse, checks the will, and prevents it from carrying out that which it is prompted to perform (see the action of these contrariant forces noticed by St. Paul, Romans 7.). "For the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthy tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things" (Wisd. 9:15). Our Lord at this very time was experiencing and exemplifying the truth of his saying, though in his ease the weakness of the flesh was entirely overmastered by the willing spirit. It is noted that Polycarp quotes this maxim of Christ in his 'Epistle to the Philippians,' ch. 7. Matthew 26:41
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