I am a tranquil place with serene paths and rugged, gnarled trees many hundreds of years old. Some people like to think my trees may have been standing even when Jesus walked around me.
I remember Him coming to me often with His disciples. I provided them a quiet place when they visited Jerusalem.
One Passover night, all but one of them came. I watched as eight stayed together in one area and three followed Jesus a little bit away.
I’d never seen the Master like this before. “My soul is deeply grieved,” He said, “even to the point of death.” I heard Him ask the three to keep watch with Him while He prayed close by.
I felt His knees hit my ground, and His face came near as he bowed low to my earth.
I listened to His troubled prayer, asking His Father to free Him – if it were possible – from what lay ahead of Him. I heard the courage in His words as He surrendered His will and gave preference to the Father’s.
I saw the heavy eyes of His disciples too, and I watched them doze off, leaving their Master to endure His sorrow alone. I felt my Creator’s quiet footsteps as He returned to find them sleeping. And I heard His saddened rebuke. “You couldn’t keep watch with Me for one hour?”
I watched this Anointed One return to His prayer place, and I beheld the fear in His eyes as He cried out to the Father with the same words. I saw His turmoil and felt His sweat hit my dust like drops of blood.
Three times I listened to Him plead that the cup awaiting Him might pass by. Three times I witnessed Him relinquish His will to His Father’s. Three times He returned to His friends and found them sleeping. On the last, I detected a resolve in His voice. “The hour is at hand,” He said. “Get up, let’s go. My betrayer is near.”
My earthen foundation rumbled with the footsteps of a mob approaching Jesus. Their torches lit me up in the dark night. I heard their swords clanking and saw the clubs they carried.
And I saw the missing disciple – leading the crowd. I watched him walk right up to Jesus and greet Him with a kiss. A kiss!
I heard Jesus calmly ask the throng who they sought. “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said. In just three powerful words, He answered them. “I am He.” And my ground took the impact of this mass of men as they uncontrollably drew backward and fell down before the Messiah of God.
I listened as He asked why they’d come for Him as if He were a criminal when they could have easily taken Him as He taught at the synagogue every day. I didn’t hear an answer.
In a flash, I saw Peter lunge to slash the ear of the high priest’s servant. Then, I heard that surrendered, resolute voice again. Jesus said, “Put your sword away. Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given Me?” Then He healed the servant’s ear.
I watched all His friends run away as soldiers bound the One who could have called down legions of angels to defend Him. And I gazed after the mob as they led Him away to begin drinking the cup the Father had set before Him to offer salvation to all mankind.
I am the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Garden of Gethsemane is located east of the Temple Mount at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus spent His last free hours there before His arrest, trials and crucifixion.
Gethsemane means “oil press,” and the area was once a fertile olive grove. Today, the Garden contains impressive, gnarly trees that some researchers believe were planted in the 12th Century. Over the years, dead branches have broken off, and new shoots have grown up so that the ancient trees continue to bear olives.
The Church of All Nations lies beside the Garden. It was named because a dozen nations contributed to its construction. It highlights the rock believed to be where Jesus prayed during His night of anguish.
Want to experience the Garden of Gethsemane for yourself? Join us on the Jewish Voice Israel Tour 2021, October 10–20, COVID permitting. Visit www.jewishvoice.org/israel-tour for more information.
Scriptures referenced: Matthew 26:38, 40, 45, John 18:11 NIV, Luke 22:51