June 4 – Trip to the Holy Land – Gethsemane

DAY 23 – GETHSEMANE

Theme: Agony

Read Matthew 26:36-47

Descend the Mount of Olives, and you discover a peaceful garden called Gethsemane amidst crowded streets filled with tourist buses, vendors, and pedestrians. Next to the Garden of Eden, it may be the most famous garden in the Bible. Even today, groups with a reservation can get alone in a private section for reflection and prayer about what happened here the night before Jesus died.

The word Gethsemane means, “oil press.” It’s not surprising that a grove of olive trees still stands nearby today. It’s even possible to walk about 100 yards to visit a cave where Jesus likely spent His last hours with His disciples.

Matthew describes those hours with these words: “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Matthew 26:36-41 NIV). This scenario is repeated twice more in Gethsemane before Judas comes to betray the Lord.

No one can fully understand the agony of the Lord during those hours. It’s ironic that Jesus wrestled with the Father’s will in that location since Gethsemane implies the idea of “pressing.” The Bible even says He “sweat great drops of blood” as He contemplated the horrors of the cross.

What caused this great anguish for the Lord? Was it just the thought of crucifixion on a Roman cross? No. As horrific as that would be, it was the idea that, for the only time in eternity past, present or future, God the Father and God the Son would be separated. Jesus boldly proclaimed the eternal unity of the Godhead with statements like these: “I and the Father are one.”

(John 10:30 – NIV).   “…That they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity” (John 17:22b- NIV).

In Gethsemane, Jesus wrestled with the fracture of that relationship because he would bear the penalty for our sins in His body. The Apostle Paul summarizes the Lord’s motivation in Gethsemane: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”  (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).   What Jesus accomplished for us on the cross enables us to experience the perfect righteousness of God credited to our spiritual bank account!  That’s an offer too good to refuse.

Prayer of reflection:  Thank you, Jesus, that you were willing to face the agony of the cross so that I could be made right with a holy God for all eternity.

Bob Fetterhoff

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