“When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.” (John 18:1)
In the summer of 2011 I traveled to the Holy Land and spent close to two weeks in Israel. It was a truly memorable trip of not only sightseeing but understanding the biblical significance of all the sights which were seen.
I was struck by the barren wilderness which is Judea in contrast with the lush, green and fertile area surrounding the Sea of Galilee. Our tour group spent several hours actually on the Sea of Galilee and I wondered aloud what it must have been like for Jesus and the disciples to be on the lake during the violent storm, which Jesus eventually stilled (Mark 4:35-41).
Our group visited the cities of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem. One of the most interesting excursions was visiting Masada and the Dead Sea.
With respect to today’s text, our group also ventured into the Kidron Valley which descends to the Eastern Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem where the sealed Eastern Gate remains visible. The Kidron Valley consists of a deep, dark ravine, to the northeast of Jerusalem, through which flowed a small storm brook or winter torrent, and which in summer dries up. In my mind I could envision Jesus and the disciples leaving the upper room where they had observed the Passover Meal and then venturing to the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Garden of Gethsemane is the garden which John makes reference. The Tyndale Bible Dictionary describes Gethsemane as follows.
“Gethsemane is the place to which Jesus and his disciples walked after their Last Supper together in the upper room. In Gethsemane, Jesus underwent a great inner struggle, as he realized the hour of his betrayal was at hand (Mt 26:36–56; Mk 14:32–50; Lk 22:39–53).”
“The name Gethsemane, used only in the Gospels of Matthew (26:36) and Mark (14:32), means “oil press,” suggesting the presence of an olive grove. The use of the Greek word “place” in the Gospel accounts indicates that Gethsemane was an enclosed piece of ground. It may be that the grove was privately owned and that Jesus and his disciples had special permission to enter.”
“Though the Gospels of Luke and John do not mention the word Gethsemane, they both record Jesus’ agony before his betrayal. Luke says the location was on the “Mount of Olives” (Lk 22:39). John describes the area as “across the Kidron Valley” (John 18:1). John’s is the only Gospel to call the spot a garden.”
“From those accounts it is also evident that Jesus and his disciples gathered in Gethsemane often for fellowship and prayer (Lk 22:39; John 18:2). The Gospel narratives indicate that the garden was large enough for the group to separate into different parts of it.”
It is interesting to note that John’s Gospel makes no record of Jesus’ prayer to the Father concerning the “cup” of which Jesus would partake on behalf of sinners. The cup refers to the wrath of God towards sin and the sinner. Jesus’ verbal submission to the Father’s will while in the garden is not documented as it is in the other three gospels. Perhaps this is because John records Jesus’ resolute prayer of submission while He was still in the upper room (John 17).
As we will witness in John’s Gospel. Jesus’ actions display a willingness to do the Father’s will. Jesus not only prayed to do the Father’s will on behalf of sinners. Jesus fulfilled the Father’s will on behalf of sinners.
There is no way believers will, or could, ever be called by God the Father to accomplish what only God the Son could. However, God does call us to do His will even when it is difficult. It may concern a relationship, a job, a change in one’s life or even the death of a loved one.
One of Bill Gaither’s most poignant songs is entitled Have You Had a Gethsemane. Meditate upon the lyrics and then go to God with a resolute will to carry out His will.
In the garden He went to pray
when it seemed hope was gone.
He prayed with a broken heart.
And he prayed all alone.
Have you had a Gethsemane?
Have you prayed in despair?
In the dark of those weary hours
did the Lord meet you there?
Have you had a Gethsemane?
Have you prayed the night through?
Have you shed tears in agony
when no hope was in you?
Have you prayed, “If it is thy will
may this cup pass from me?
But if it’s your will, dear Lord,
I will bear it for thee?”
May God’s truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!