Recently I had the blessing to visit some of the Biblical sites in Israel. Since I returned the number one question people have asked me is, “What was your favorite place you visited?” My response has been quick and easy, “The Garden of Gethsemane!” Magdala, a recent site of archeological discovery, was a close second. The Garden was my favorite spot because of how sure we are this was the spot recorded in the Gospels where Jesus would regularly retreat and pray. To stand in the same place that his sandals touched and to touch the spot they believe he prayed the night he was betrayed was moving beyond words. Sitting there in the garden I was struck with something more than the weight of those moments in history.
Within the garden there is a tree that is over two thousand years old. They have it fenced off to keep people from touching it but I couldn’t help myself. I put my finger through the fence and stood meditating on Jesus’ suffering for me as he prayed there that night. A chapel is built over the spot where tradition holds Jesus actually prayed very near that tree. In the middle of the chapel is an exposed piece of quartz bedrock. If you get close, you’ll see people gathered around it bowed down and placing hands on it. This is the rock recognized as the spot of Jesus’ prayer.
41And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’
I followed the popular thing to do and knelt there and prayed the same prayer Jesus prayed. After getting some time to wonder the main garden area a bit we moved to a more private section of the garden our guide had pre-arranged for us to spend time in. In Jesus’ day this garden was part of an olive orchard and it would likely have been here where they processed the olives into olive oil.
While we sat talking about our impressions I stared at my feet. The ground below them was dirt cracked by the dry and warm climate. It looked like so many other places I had stood in my lifetime. I was struck by the weirdness of how normal that site was in the midst of such an important space.
The “normality” of this garden mixed with the weight of glory being Jesus regular prayer site is such a great image of Jesus in our own lives. Jesus’ life was a mix of the mundane and the divine in such a way that all things become glorious. His promise to be with those who would believe in him and place their faith in him is the divine invading the mundane. When I look at my life, it is no more special or unique than anyone else. Despite this, Jesus inhabits it in the presence of His Holy Spirit so that there is glory there too.
We lose sight of this reality as we go about our daily lives. We drive to work, type of keyboards, chit chat with co-workers and neighbors, put gas in our cars, and so many other boring daily tasks. Are we aware in those moments that they are just as weighty and glorious as the Garden of Gethsemane? The Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives causes the divine to invade those spaces in ways that should mystify us. While you go about your life today, my prayer is that you understand Jesus’ presence with you in the Holy Spirit in new ways so that even the most mundane experience can become like sitting in the garden with Jesus.