Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
((5. Oops!: The Spirit’s willing but the flesh is weak.))
“The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” It’s true, not just for Peter, James, and John, but for you and me, too. The Holy Spirit, given us in Holy Baptism, wants to work in us and through us. He desires to bear His fruit, good fruit, in our lives—faith toward God and love, active love, for the people around you.
But your flesh is weak. Your flesh doesn’t want to “walk according to the Spirit,” as Paul says (Rom 8:4). Your flesh produces all sorts of “sins and evil desires.” Within your heart, soul, mind, and strength there’s weakness, the weakness of sin. It’s your true problem. It’s so big a problem you can’t even realize it without God telling you.
((4. Ugh!: We over estimate our own abilities.))
It’s even worse than that, though. Your flesh isn’t just lazy or maybe just in need of a small, little pick me up. Mark 14 and the rest of Scripture lets us know that that’s not the case at all. It’s far worse. You’re flesh is active.
Your flesh fights against the Holy Spirit. Your flesh wants you to live “as if God did not matter and as if you matter most.” It doesn’t want “His love to have its way with you.” It wants “your love for others to fail.” Your “fleshly mind is hostility toward God, for it does not submit to the Law of God, indeed it cannot!” as Paul says (Rom 8:7).
“The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Gal 5:17)
Your flesh doesn’t just actively produce all sorts of sinful actions and the evil desires that lie behind them. Your flesh also wants to hang on to your sins and hide them—talked that about last week. Your flesh makes it so you can’t see or recognize all your sins. “Who can discern his errors?” David says (Ps 19:12). But your flesh has even one more trick up its sleeve. It makes us over estimate our own abilities!
That’s what we hear from Peter and the other Apostles. “Peter said to Him, ‘Even though they all fall away, I will not.’” “He [even] said emphatically, ‘If I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And they all said the same.” But then what happened? They fell asleep, tried to fight for Jesus, and finally abandoned Him.
You and me, too. We over estimate our ability. We try to add ourselves, our actions, our promises, our emotions, anything we can come up with. We try to fix our own sin problem. Our action becomes not a fruit of the Spirit, a gift to rejoice in, but a work we must add on.“Well, you’ve gotta change or do something.” Always trying to add something of us. The truth is even unbelievers can give up stealing or gossiping or adultery or grudges.
Our flesh is weak, as opposed to the Holy Spirit’s willingness, and that means we’re actually unwilling. Unwilling to give up our sins, unwilling to admit them, and finally unwilling to give up trying to fix them ourselves.
((3. Aha!: Jesus is completely willing))
Your flesh fights against God. Can’t submit to His Law!Can’t believe in Him. Can’t produce true good fruit toward those around you. It might be able to put on an outward show, but that’s it.
Jesus, however, is what you cannot be, and He does it in your place. Jesus is completely willing. He willingly submits Himself to His Father’s will to save you. “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” That’s why He says late on, “Rise, let’s be going; look, my betrayer is at hand.”
No one will stop Him from what He wants to do. He had complete control of the situation. And when Peter tried to put himself into the plan, Jesus shows how willing He really is. “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given Me?” (Jn 18:11) “Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Mt 26:53) Jesus goes to His cross, willingly, for those who are weak, those who are sinners, those who’d rather run away naked than be caught with Jesus!—Peter, James, John, the young man, the other disciples, you, and me.
((2. Whee!: He is strong to work salvation.))
But Jesus isn’t just willing to save you. Unlike you and me He’s strong! Strong to work salvation. We hear His promise about how strong He is to save! “After I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” He “suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried.” But the power and strength of His suffering and death is seen through His resurrection! “I have authority to lay down [My life] and authority to take it up again,” Jesus says (Jn 10:18).
What He does to save you shows His almighty power because He saves by the opposite of strength. “The weakness of God is stronger than men.” “My power is completed in weakness.”
“By His wounds you are healed.” By His being condemned you are declared innocent. By shedding His blood and giving His body into death you have eternal life. “His blood cleanses us from all sins.” By His being betrayed and abandoned, He will never leave you or forsake you. Only His almighty power, His strength, could turn an evil day into a day we’ll always call good—Good Friday.
He forgives all your iniquity, pardons your offenses, overlooks with forgiveness all the times you try to help Him out or forsake Him, betray Him, or deny Him. He won’t deny you. “He will not deny Himself.” You’re His—baptized!
Cross. Nailed pierced hands. Death. Tomb. He uses His divine strength to use weakness to save you. Think about this when you sing “He has shown strength with His arm” in the Magnificat.
((1. JESUS DOESN’T ABANDON US BUT DELIVERS HIS FORGIVENESS RIGHT TO YOU.))
He’s not done using His power to save you. He doesn’t abandon you but uses His power to make sure you’re not left on your own. Sure, He’s almighty and you can pray to Him for forgiveness. You can “plead guilty before God of all sins” and ask for forgiveness, “as we do in the Lord’s prayer.” And Jesus promises: “Whatever you ask in My name,” He and His Father will give you. But Jesus has more for you—always more with the Lord!
JESUS DOESN’T ABANDON YOU BUT DELIVERS HIS FORGIVENESS RIGHT TO YOU. Concretely in a real place. Real person. That’s what the “before the Pastor is” all about with Private Absolution. He gives you someone to help bear your burdens. More gift. More forgiveness. More word of God for you, just for you in your own particular need.
Sure we also have the ability today to call up a doctor on our smart phones, but sometimes you need to meet a doctor in person to get the treatment you need. So also your pastor—“those sins which you know and feel in your heart.”
What’s the real motivation behind saying, “Well, I don’t need a pastor…” Is a desire to fix our own problems? Work out our own sins? How’s that been going for you? It hasn’t been going so well for me. (Yes, even pastors need pastors.) Maybe its fear… I did take an oath to never divulge.
Anyway, Jesus knows your inability, your weakness, and He wants to deliver His forgiveness to you, and He’s got the power to do it! He uses that power to send His men to forgive your sins. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” … He breathed on [His disciples] and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
JESUS DOESN’T ABANDON YOU BUT DELIVERS HIS FORGIVENESS RIGHT TO YOU. Certainly in the Lord’s Prayer, but also through the Pastor He gifts to you. Either way you end up forgiven!