Mark 14:38

Watch and pray,” he said to them all, “so that you may not fall into temptation. True, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

never was
going to be sufficient

equally insufficient
is any other virtue
including prayer

eventually prayer
will justify anything
in Stockholm captivity

temptational resistance
requires presence
not technique

Mark often has quick cuts as he jumps from one scene to another. The little word “you” is a clue that we have just had one of those jumps without it being announced.

It is easy to have this verse be a continuation of what is being said to Peter. The difficulty comes in the “you” here being plural, rather than singular.

One of the choices is to have this second word be addressed to all present—Peter, James, and John.

Of more interest is the possibility that it also includes, or is even primarily directed, at the Reader. It is as if Jesus turned to face the Reader and says, “You’ve just seen what the inner core of disciples has done. I see in you the struggle between your interest in possibly partnering with me and the difficulties that will pose for you. I also see you are as up for this—as am I. See my own difficulty here and let’s keep alert and pray for each other.”

Of even more interest is seeing three parts to this verse. First, the difficulty Peter, James, and John have of keeping alert in the presence of their monkey minds jumping all about, wearing them out. Second, a word of encouragement to the Reader as well as the three disciples that adds a purpose for resoluteness in an instruction to keep awake. Third, the distinction between “spirit” and “flesh” (a false distinction and never a satisfactory binary) belongs with a beginning confession when Jesus returns to prayer.

The first part is narratively needed, as is a blockage in any fairy tale (and, no, that is not a disparagement). The second part is a direct address to Mark’s congregation and the current Reader. The third part is an incorrect marking of verses and has placed this spirit/flesh comment in conjunction with Peter, rather than with Jesus as prelude to his praying again.

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