April 9, 2009

The Holy Week: Part IV - Gethsemane

The night was dark and the air was crisp as Jesus and his disciples approached the temple mount from Mount Zion, where they had just partaken of the Passover feast. They had traveled this road many times, but this time Jesus led them through the temple courtyard on their way to the garden where Jesus loved to ponder and teach. As they walked through the large court of the gentiles towards the Golden Gate, Jesus looked upon the temple as if it were his last time he would see it. He loved this place, and his eyes now glistened as he stared up at the magnificent temple of God. The full moon shone upon the gold and shimmered in the night reflecting a beautiful glow across the entire court. They continued their walk and left the temple court walking through the gate and down the stairs that led to the bottom of the Kidron Valley and into the garden called Gethsemane. The old gnarled trees were in full bloom and the flowers were illuminated by the full moon above. The night was beautiful, yet Jesus seemed forlorn and weary. “How could he be so mournful on such a night as this?” thought Andrew as he walked beside his Lord and Master. Passover was considered by most, the greatest of all the feasts. As they entered the garden, opening the small wooden gate that creaked on its hinges, Jesus asked that only Peter, James and John come into the very midst of the garden. The rest of the apostles lied down near the outer wall to rest. As the four continued to walk past the large olive trees, a shadow seemed to cross the face of the Lord, a shadow that seemed to darken his very being. “Tarry ye here, and watch with me,” said the Lord with a heavy voice. He then continued into the very most center of the garden. As he fell to the ground, he winced out in pain. With sweat falling from his brow he looked to the sky. “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” As the very weight of the world came upon him he wept. It seemed as though he, like the tender olive, was being crushed by the great weight that lie on his shoulders. After several hours, the Savior rose, wiping his blood speared face with his robe, and coming to the side of his three chief apostles. “Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” Upon hearing this, Peter looked into the face of the Master. Though he seemed to have stayed awake the entire night, a light emanated from his weary face. His eyes seemed to show more compassion and love as Peter had never seen before. Within himself Peter asked, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Truly they had been spiritual slaves, yet on this night a new power seemed to be born; a power that would bring one at one with God. (See Matthew 26:36-45, Mark 14:34-42 and the Jewish Pesach Seder)

The atonement of the Savior is the most significant event to take place in all of history. While in a garden called Gethsemane, because of the large olive presses that were there in contained, the Savior knelt and ransomed man from sin and death. Gethsemane means “olive press” and thus was the tool used to make the freshly harvested olives into the life giving olive oil.

Olive oil for centuries was considered one of the most important substances for life in the Mediterranean. This rich golden oil was used to light the home of every family in Judea. Oil was also used to light the inner chamber of the Temple in Jerusalem. It was used to cook most food and in particular was used in the process of making bread, the very staff of life. Olive oil was also used to help create many ointments that were used for both the living—for healing purposes, and for the dead—to anoint the body prior to placing the body in the tomb. Even Jesus was anointed about a week before His death by Mary, the sister of Martha (see John 12:1-9), and then again after His brutal crucifixion by this and other faithful women (see Luke 24:1). Thus, it is highly significant that Jesus would chose to suffer and bleed in a garden of olive trees. He could have chosen any place to perform this sacrifice. Yet, He knew that by atoning for the sins of man within the gates of this garden, the meaning of His atoning sacrifice would be given a brighter light and imagery that would fill our lives for centuries to come; even into the eternities.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ proclaimed “I am the light of world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). We live in a world full of darkness and despair. We are surrounded by turmoil, financial crisis and by eroding values. We often feel that the path before us is dark and weary, yet if we will but only look to the Savior of the world, our path will be lighted, yea even to the overshadowing of all fear and gloom. As we learn to follow Him—which means we live as He did—we can take of His light that we may have no reason to fear.

The Lord also proclaimed “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). While in the garden of Gethsemane the Lord, through His infinite suffering, was empowered to provide eternal life to all mankind. Just as the Israelites in the days of old were fed from above by manna that came down to provide them with the very essence of life, so on this night of nights in a garden and later on the cross and then through the empty tomb, Christ has provided each of us with the very essence of life. Through His suffering we can overcome all suffering. Through his death we can overcome the chains of death. Through His life we can have even eternal life.

In addition, the Lord has stated: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). Through the atonement of Christ we can be consoled and healed of not only our spiritual, but our physical and mental pains. Just as olive oil was used in times of ancient to anoint the body to provide relief and comfort, so the atoning suffering of the Lord will bring relief and comfort to those in need. This relief will not only be provided in life, but in death. Truly, His life and teachings are as an ointment of power that is poured out upon our head and upon our soul that we may live forever more in peace.

As He knelt there alone in Gethsemane, He was literally weighted down, or pushed down upon by the sins and sorrows of the entire world. This burden, like the large stone that was placed upon the olives to squeeze out the precocious oils that they contained, likewise pressed upon His very soul that He bled from every pore (see Luke 22:42-44). The blood that He shed for our behalf, like the olive oil, gives light, life and comfort to our souls.

Because of what Jesus Christ did on our behalf while in this garden filled with olive trees, we have a light that will never be extinguished. We have a light that will enable us to enter back into the presence of the Father to pass by the angels and to enter into eternal life and exaltation. For truly, as Paul so eloquently stated, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession” (Hebrews 4:14). Let us each go forward with faith in our hearts, and the Light of the world as our guide that we too may enter into everlasting life.

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