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Tuesday in Holy Week

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” — Matthew 26:41

The words weak and sick are the same word in Greek. Context determines which English word to use in translation. Sometimes it’s obvious: “Heal the sick” (Luke 10:9). Other times, as in the above, it could go either way, including both weakness and sickness.

“Ours is a leprous flesh,” Luther writes in the Large Catechism (V,77), “which feels nothing although it rages with disease and gnaws away at itself.” He writes as St. Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). We want to walk in God’s commandments. Yet we know that our willpower is far from sufficient for accomplishing that.

How shall we bear temptation? In Christ. Jesus is the one “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And “because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).

Jesus does not tell us to try harder. He says watch, which starts with and flows from watching the Scriptures. In the Scriptures we learn that we’re weak, not strong, sick, not healthy, and thus we do not become overconfident about our abilities. We also learn common temptations, and know what to guard against.

“And pray.” Just as a sick man lying in bed doesn’t have the strength to get up and help himself, but rather calls upon another to help him, so also we in our weakness call upon Christ. He’s the one who went head to head with the Tempter and conquered in the fight. He is able and willing to help the tempted, giving the way of escape so that you endure. He paved a way for Joseph to evade Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:12). The Father will likewise bear you through and out of temptation as certainly as Jesus taught us to pray the Sixth Petition.

Lead not into temptation, Lord, Where our grim foe and all his horde Would vex our souls on ev’ry hand. Help us resist, help us to stand Firm in the faith, a mighty host, Through comfort of the Holy Ghost.

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