What does Mark 14:38 mean?
ESV: Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
NIV: Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'
NASB: Keep watching and praying, so that you will not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'
CSB: Stay awake and pray so that you won't enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
NLT: Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.'
KJV: Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.
NKJV: Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Verse Commentary:
Jesus has just awakened Peter, James, and John who fell asleep while Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus has told them to "watch," meaning to pay close attention and avoid disaster. The verb tense used for "watch" and "pray" means that this is an on-going command. Jesus clarifies here that the disaster they should pray to avoid is sin.

"Spirit" is from the Greek root word pneuma. There are great debates about the exact nature of the heart, soul, mind, and spirit. Here, "spirit" is that part of a person that recognizes and interacts with the non-physical world. Its counterpart is the "flesh," which comes from the Greek root word sarx. Literally, the flesh is the physical part of a person; spiritually, it refers to the non-physical, sin nature of unbelievers and the unsanctified sinful impulses of a believer. That part of us that connects with God may have a desire to obey and follow Him, but the flesh does not have the strength to do good merely because God tells it to.

Without the work of the Holy Spirit, who gives us a new nature, the three disciples don't or can't abide Jesus' admonition to watch and pray against temptation. When Judas comes with the priests' guards to arrest Jesus, Peter acts. When he draws his sword and attacks, cutting off the ear of Malchus, the high priest's servant (John 18:10), he thinks he's revolting against the Jewish leadership, but he's really revolting against Jesus. Like his catastrophic, satanic failure in Mark 8:31–33, Peter rejects Jesus' march toward death and takes matters into his own hands to prevent it. Jesus again chastises Peter for attempting to keep Him from His Father's work (John 18:11). Jesus then heals Malchus, His enemy who has come to arrest Him and take Him to those who will condemn Him to death (Luke 22:51).

Jesus has already prophesied that Peter will deny that he knows Jesus (Mark 14:26–31). Peter's attack on the high priest's servant shows that he does not keep watch against temptation nor keep his faith in Jesus and God's plan. It is so easy to respond to fear by physically acting out when Jesus just wants us to have faith.
Verse Context:
Mark 14:32–42 contains Jesus' wait in the garden of Gethsemane. This describes Jesus' example and the disciples' catastrophic failure to follow the general theme of Jesus' admonition in Mark 13:32–37. Jesus watches how God moves and prays for His part in it. The disciples sleep. Three times, their Master finds them unconscious, both physically and spiritually (Mark 13:35–36). They do not take the time, as Jesus does, to prepare for the hardships in front of them. They so expect Jesus' victory over the Roman occupiers they don't prepare for His spiritual war on the cross. This story is also in Matthew 26:36–46 and Luke 22:39–46.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus is anointed in a symbolic anticipation of His death. Judas decides to secretly cooperate with local religious leaders to arrest Jesus in secret. During the Passover meal, Jesus predicts His betrayal by Judas, and Peter's denial. He also institutes the Lord's Supper, also known as communion. After praying on the Mount of Olives, Jesus is captured when Judas identifies Him to a hostile mob sent by Jewish authorities. He endures a corrupt, prejudiced trial, ending in a conviction for blasphemy. Peter, fearing for his life, lies about knowing Jesus, before remembering Jesus' prediction and breaking down in sobs.
Chapter Context:
Jesus has finished His public teaching ministry and now prepares for the crucifixion. His sacrificial loyalty will provide the means by which the disciples' abandonment will be forgiven. Next, the Romans, as representatives of Gentiles throughout history, will join the Jews and kill Jesus. Jesus will be buried, but He will rise again with the promise that His sacrifice will redeem the world. Matthew 26 and Luke 22 follow Mark 14 more closely while John 13:1—18:27 records more of Jesus' teaching in the upper room.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes both Jesus' servanthood and His role as the promised Messiah: the Son of God. This is done through a concise, action-packed style. Mark provides relatively few details, instead focusing on actions and simple statements. This relates to the Gospel's authorship, which is believed to be based on the memories of the apostle Peter. These include many of Jesus' miracles, in contrast to other Gospels which include many more of Jesus' teachings and parables. Mark also makes frequent mention of Jesus' ministry being misunderstood by others.
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