Journey to Gethsemane
Jerusalem. David and I were experiencing a dream trip come true. Someone had provided a way for us to join a small study group to Israel. All my life I had desired to see the places where Jesus walked and to have my eyes opened to the events of the Bible in an extraordinary manner. I was full of thinking thanks as we actually walked along the old Jerusalem walls, into the Kidron valley, and up the Mount of Olives into the Garden of Gethsemane. The olive trees were astounding!
As we entered I realized that it was a lot smaller than I had imagined. Probably one reason for that was the Church of All Nations that now occupies much of the area where the garden had originally been. The word Gethsemane means olive press. Since the Mount of Olives is covered with olive tress, that is a most fitting name. The garden seemed more cultivated than I expected, probably more than it was when Jesus and His disciples had gone there 2,000 years ago. A fence enclosed the garden, protecting the ancient olive trees, and beautiful flowers were growing in between the old trees. I could see walkways, but people were not allowed to enter.
Th(i)nkful for Freddie
Not sure if I was super-exhausted from travel and walking many miles a day, or because I was truly aware of the immensity of what happened on that piece of ground, but I began to cry. Tears were streaming down my face as I peered over the fence that surrounded the garden. I was so very th(i)nkful that Jesus “saw it through.” For my sake, he endured through the arrest and the illegal trial that night, and then the beatings, the mocking, and the agony of the cross the next day. The overwhelming agony was sadly juxtaposed with the underwhelmed cluelessness of his disciples who were not even able to stay awake and pray with Him. I don’t expect I would have done any better as I so often yield to the frailty of my flesh.
A man inside the garden walked up to me. He noticed my tears and was gentle and kind. He said that he had been the gardener there for 21 years, and his father for 40 years before him. His name was Freddie; his father was from Romania and his mother an American Jew. He asked me to wait a minute while he went to get something. He returned with some small sprigs clipped from the oldest olive tree in the garden! As we continued to chat with him, we found out that Freddie’s mother was very sick so David asked if he could pray for her, and he did.
Some of the olive trees there were so huge and gnarled. I had never seen such trees in all my life. I wondered if in fact some of them could actually have been there 2,000 years ago when Jesus was there?
Rosemary in Gethsemane
As an epilogue, I wanted to mention that someone once told me that there was a lot of the herb rosemary in the Garden of Gethsemane. That connected with me. I love rosemary, and to think that it may have been growing around the area where Jesus prayed brought me joy. Perhaps he stroked His fingers over the rosemary and smelled it like I love to do. So I was on the lookout for that as I walked around the garden.
Sure enough I found it on the north side. It was neatly planted in a row, but I am sure that when Jesus was there it grew more wildly.
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples. Sit here, while I go over there and pray. And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, My soul is very sorrowful , even to death; remain here, and watch with Me.