Today’s find: Agony

Wandering about Gethsemane today put “agony” into a whole new perspective for me.

The Gospel accounts are vivid enough to make the point that Jesus suffered here: mental anguish… frustration…abandonment.

But the scripture passages don’t really give you the lay of the land. From the evangelists’ telling, for example, you don’t really see why Jesus chose THIS spot to pray….

…but no doubt it’s because Gethsemane is just across the valley from the Temple Mount. So Jesus and his disciples could have felt very much connected to the Passover rituals taking place there, without getting caught up in the massive festival crowds “inside the walls.”

From a vantage point in Gethsemane, they would have heard the singing, seen the smoke, smelled the incense from the Temple district. Jesus would have felt a strong spiritual connection to his Father’s house across the way.

The Garden is certainly lovely. But another point the gospels don’t make plain is that it’s a work area — site of an olive press. So while Jesus could have found some privacy here, he probably didn’t have the whole place to himself.

We certainly didn’t. Outside the walled enclosure where we prayed today, the world whirled at a vigorous pace: horns blaring, vendors hawking, traffic moving all around.

Despite the cacophony, the garden provided a refuge. Still, I couldn’t help but think how it would’ve added to the agony… to realize how little the rest of the world seemed to care about Jesus’ plight.

And here’s another thing you don’t notice unless you’re sitting here, keeping watch with the Lord: The High Priest’s palace is clearly visible across the way.
This means Jesus would have seen them coming for him, even as he prayed.
Imagine the agony, seeing the mob — torches ablaze — as they made their way across…to lead you to a sham trial.

Ten…fifteen…maybe 20 minutes it would have taken — for them to descend down into the valley…and then clamber up the other side to the Garden.

So it makes you wonder: Why didn’t Jesus run?

He’d have had a head start…he could easily have made it up the hill, and hightailed it out of town.

Sitting…watching…in Gethsemane this morning, I realize: It must truly have been agony, waiting for all these events to unfold.

I have long loved the Chris Tomlin tune, “Mighty Is The Power of the Cross.” Highly recommended listening (which you can check out here):

Today, on Gethsemane, I felt one line of the song really sink in for the very first time:

“…where the Lamb lay down his life…to lift us from the fall…”

For Jesus — the Courageous One — the slow-motion slaughter began, with agony, in the Garden.

In that moment, to most everyone around, it seemed largely an inconsequential event.

The world barely bothered to take note.

Let us remember that we are in the presence of the Holy and Merciful One.


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6 thoughts on “Today’s find: Agony

  1. David Sauerburger

    John – when we were there I l was led to believe some of the Olive Trees may have been there when Jesus was there. However an article I googled by Naomi O’Leary on Olive trees of Gethsemane among oldest in world: study stated:

    “Carbon dating showed that samples taken from the oldest part of the trunks of three of the eight trees came from the years 1092, 1166 and 1198, according to the study by the National Research Council of Italy Trees and Timber Institute and academics from five Italian universities

    The other five trees at Gethsemane – which means “oil press” in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus – could not be tested as they are so gnarled that their trunks have become hollowed out, with only newer growth remaining.”

    Regardless, the location from the city and its’ setting is an experience that was meaningful to me.

    We are all enjoying your travel pictures and thoughts throughout the Holy Land.

    • Thanks, David. These trees could certainly tell some tales…if only any of them could blog!

    • Jacquelyn Scherer

      When I was there, we were told that all the olive trees were cut down by the Romans. But olive trees clone from their roots, so genetically at least, those ARE the olive trees beneath which Jesus prayed.

  2. Lisbeth

    Thank you, John! Are you in the Holy Land?

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