The Garden of Gethsemane is always for me the most powerful place we visit in Israel. On our just-completed spring pilgrimage, our group spent an hour one morning in this sacred place.
From this vantage point we could see the Eastern Gate, built by Suleiman in 1537 at the spot where the gate stood in Jesus’ day. The soldiers who came to arrest Jesus marched through this city gate, torches clear in the night. They traveled down the Kidron Valley and up the Mount of Olives, a journey which must have taken 30-45 minutes. All the while, Jesus stood at the one place where he knew Judas could find him and the soldiers could arrest him. If he had fled into the Garden and returned to Galilee, he could have escaped their reach and lived a natural life. Instead, he waited for all that he knew would come.
That night he would be betrayed by a friend and deserted by disciples. He would be tried illegally by the religious leaders of his nation. The next morning he would be convicted of no crime but sentenced to death by crucifixion, the worst form of execution ever devised. Worst of all, he would bear our sins on his sinless soul. All for us.
The photo was taken in the Garden of Gethsemane by Reuben Nevo, one of our tour guides and my very dear friend. It captures the red flowers that grow in the Garden each spring. They are traditionally called “drops of blood,” reminding us of Jesus “anguish” as “he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
He did all of this for you. Please, never again wonder if you are loved.