Sing: Go to Dark Gethsemane, UMH 290
We traveled back into Jerusalem to the base of the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. The olive trees seen below are probably over one thousand years old but no one knows for sure because olive trees have growth rings that a very difficult to distinguish. We know these are not the trees from Jesus’ time because during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD the Romans cut down all of the trees around the city to use as building materials or as fuel; though olive roots are known to survive continue to grow.
Of course much else has changed in two thousand years. What really matters as we visit these different sites is not whether they are authentic or accurate or just the way Jesus experienced them. What matters to us as pilgrims is that we are growing closer to Christ and we feel the presence of Christ with us as we walk in his foot-steps. This garden and the church next to it definitely helped us feel the presence of Jesus.
We had time to spend among the olive trees. The name “Gethsemane” means “oil press.” Here, on the western slope of the long ridge called The Mount of Olives, there would have been olive trees and a place or places to press the olives into oil. This was also a place where Jewish pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for Passover could stay overnight. Because Jerusalem would get over-crowded during Passover the chief priests had given a special dispensation which allowed pilgrims to eat the Passover meal outside the city walls within a certain distance and still be considered to have eaten Passover “in” Jerusalem. That might have happened here.
The garden was a peaceful place despite rush hour traffic going by within ear-shot. The look of the ancient trees was very soothing and being able to look up and across the valley to see the temple mount filled me with a sense of awe for where I was. This is a special place, a sacred spot, a holy land. Thank you, Lord, for making times and places sacred to us. We feel your presence. We hear your still, small voice. We ask. We seek. We knock. Bless us, O Lord, so that we might be a blessing to others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.