A garden on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, East of the Temple mount was a favourite place for Jesus. There He could look at the temple adorned by King Herod but empty of the presence of God’s glory. This is still called Gethsemane and is a favourite place for pilgrims. It was to this garden Jesus and His disciples went to after the Passover meal in the upper room. It was night. The account of this evening is recorded in the Gospels and when put together is full of pathos, intrigue and mystery. In the presence of weary men who fell asleep Jesus wrestled in prayer knowing the cross was waiting for Him on the morrow.
We will never plumb the depths of Gethsemane and Jesus’ prayer battle. He who is called the Son of God/Son of Man was about to become the Passover Lamb. He would also fulfil the meaning of the bronze serpent mentioned in John 3. The Son who said He and the Father were one was on the verge of knowing a separation. The Son of Man who had come to do the Father’s will was about to be made sin and cursed! Not for anything He had done or thought. Jesus became such a hideous spectacle in the sight of Heaven on our behalf. He was about to take our place in God the Father’s judgement of our treason, rebellion, indifference and arrogance towards God and His commands.
I don’t believe Jesus’ agony in the garden was about a fear of failure. It was much, much more than that. The cry on the cross says it all: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” It was at that moment when the Father and the Holy Spirit turned away from beholding Jesus that the horror Jesus wrestled with in the garden took place.
Gethsemane is the preparation and the battleground of the cross. Many are the accounts of brave men and women enduring inhumane treatment and death. Jesus was a brave man but more than that. He endured the wrath of the Father. That was when Jesus became our sin bearer. He endured the taunts of kinsmen, betrayal of friends and the glee of the demonic as He suffered. Jesus became the scum of the universe. No one will ever be beneath Him in this. The One we call Lord became the lowest form of life in all of eternity at that moment for us. This is so important. It means that the lowest of the low can still find hope, forgiveness and understanding from and with Jesus as the risen Lord. No one can say that they are too wicked for Jesus to forgive and make into a new person. Jesus can lift all of us out of our rottenness and being enemies of God and take us up to the Heavenly places!
Gethsemane became the culmination of Jesus commitment to doing the Father’s will (John 5:30). We should be humbled by the words of Jesus ‘”Not my will but yours be done.” It came from the Man Jesus whose body was soaked in sweat and blood, and who would have been weary and aware of what was waiting for Him.
I find it remarkable that in this garden, as the soldiers came to arrest Him, Jesus with a word caused them to fall back in disarray. (John 18:6) What were the words? I AM! There are more than 7 ‘I AM’s’ in John. In Gethsemane is the final one. Our Lord in placing Himself into the bonds of the soldiers did so confessing His eternal deity. This was repeated in a different manner before the High Priest under oath.
It was in Gethsemane that the battle for your salvation and mine was won. As we grow older in our faith and understanding may we become more and more grateful and committed to Him whom we call Lord!
As the festival of Passover draws near and the Easter celebration is linked with it, remember Jesus fulfilled it for you. What is our response to His act of redeeming grace?