Jesus left the upper room and made straight for the Garden of Gethsemane:
The night air carried the odors and noises of overcrowded Jerusalem. The path through the Kidron Valley was a gruesome hike. Located just below the temple courts, the runoff of excess blood and refuse from Passover sacrifices collected in the dry stream bed. The washed feet of Jesus, fresh from the Upper Room, now took on the stains of the blood of sacrifice.
Jesus was undaunted. His mind was fixed on the Garden of Gethsemane. Inside its walls, the perfume of fresh pressed olive oil mingled with jasmine. The tangled sycamores and tall acacia trees quieted the darkness. Moon light sprinkled through the leaves.
Jesus loved this place. It was one of those spots on this earth where he enjoyed the experience of oneness with the Father.
- Here he reunites with the Father’s pleasure, “(The Father) loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:24).
- Here he affirms the Father’s power, “It is the Father, living in me, doing this work” (John 14:10).
- Here he embraces the Father’s plan, “I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:31).
OUR LESSON: Gethsemane is often a place of comfort and spiritual depth. Into this place, the violence of the world attacks.
The scene is changed. Strangers march into this place of spiritual comfort and retreat. The place of blessing becomes the scene of betrayal. Lanterns and torches challenge Jesus, the light of the world. Soldiers and officials attempt to dethrone the Son of God. With breathtaking courage, Jesus steps out to meet them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they reply.
“I am he,” Jesus said.
Jesus’ answer echo’s the name God gave Moses from the burning bush, “I Am Who I Am” (Exodus 3:14). When violence and betrayal entered His Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus affirms and anchors His eternal identity in God. The world does not determine the identity of Jesus. It is God who identifies Him as “my beloved.”
Jesus would not allow his captors to dictate who He is. You cannot allow your captors, folks who pay you money, who have power over your career, and to whom you may feel a bit beholden. If you allow them to tell you who you are, you will sacrifice your true self in a useless quest to please them.
I believe Jesus can help us at this point. Look over the garden and take note of all the people who wanted to determine the inner identity of Jesus.
- There was the slave of the High Priest, “Jesus, you are the troublemaker I am suppose to spy on.”
- There were the soldiers, “Jesus, you are the lawbreaker that has us out here in the middle of the night.”
- There were the Pharisees and Chief Priest of the Sanhedrin, “Jesus, you are not a messenger from God.”
- There was Judas, “Jesus, you are not worthy of my loyalty.”
- These were the disciples scattering in the darkness, “Jesus, you are not worth this kind of trouble.”
All these people were making statements about His identity. All these and one more; he is a slithering shadow figure in the fermenting cruelty. He has tried his tempting ways in another garden, with great success. He attacked the identity of our first parents, and they bit. The evil one has not changed his strategy. He questioned the identity of Jesus in the wilderness, “If you are the son of God…”
On this night, as Jesus faces arrest and immanent, horrific death, you can almost hear the old snake, Satan himself, snicker in the underbrush, “…so you still think you are the son of God.” And, Jesus answered, “I AM.”
OUR LESSON: When faced with cruelty and deceit, when our garden of comfort suffers an incursion of the Kingdom of this World, we must affirm and anchor our eternal identity in God, our God in Christ Jesus.
It is a seduction, a temptation, to allow the betrayers kiss, the mobs anger, or the desertion of friends and family to determine your identity at such a moment: you are a fool, you are full of evil, you are not worth our loyalty. Oh, Lord Jesus, at such a moment, a Gethsemane moment, rise in our souls. Tell us, remind us, and speak again the truth, “you are the one I love.” We are yours. Our identity, the essence of our life is found in you, Christ.
The incident in Gethsemane as recorded in John 18 ends when the soldiers “…fell down before him.” Can you see Moses falling before the voice from the burning bush, “I am that I am.” Can you see John the Revelator on the Isle of Patmos falling before the Risen Christ, who declares, “I am the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. Can you imagine the day when “every knee will fall and every tongue confess that He is Lord.”
OUR LESSON: In your Gethsemane, you are not alone. Others may betray your relationship, belittle your character, and belie your value. Yet, you are not alone. Christ stands with you; stand in Him.
Copyright © Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.