Summary: On the last day of Jesus' time with his disciples before the Triduum, Jesus accepts the journey God has given him
O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my mouth and in the thoughts we form. Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. Amen.
At the gate at the entrance of Jerusalem you can look up and see an indentation in the rock that looks a little bit like a skull. As you enter the gate, if you look up you can see a green, verdant garden: the Garden of Gethsemane.
A garden can be a place of beauty and peace and quiet reflection. A certain tranquility of spirit often accompanies those who withdraw from their busy day to stroll slowly through a garden surrounded by plants and flowers patiently growing in their natural setting.
We are told that for Jesus, the Garden of Gethsemane frequently served as a quiet place of peaceful reflection and especially for prayers with His heavenly Father. Luke 22:39 implies that He went as a frequent visitor to this garden on the side of the Mount of Olives. But this garden was different this time Jesus visited it.
The word ‘Gethsemane’ means ‘oil press’ – a very appropriate name since it sits at the base of the Mount of Olives. Here in this place was where the olives, a main staple of Judean life, were squeezed into oil.
But as Jesus visited his peaceful garden during Passover week it was different - it was not the olives that were being pressed.
Jesus had arrived triumphantly into the city of Jerusalem on Sunday, greeted by the waving palms and echoes of ‘hosanna’. What a wonderful celebration and beginning for the Passover. His disciples were with him and there surely was a sense of festival in the air. But by Thursday, all this had changed.
First, Jesus gathered his disciples around him and celebrated the Passover meal, what was to become the ‘last supper’. Before the meal, he washed all the disciples’ feet, much like we will be doing in a few minutes. In this action, the Son of God took upon himself to the role of a lowly servant, washing and drying the dusty, dirty feet of the disciples. Not an expected duty of someone who is a King.
Then they all sat and ate the Passover meal. We are all familiar with daVinci’s Last Supper. Looking at the painting, it looks like everyone is thoroughly enjoying themselves, having a good time without a care in the world. But not everyone. . . Jesus knew what would be coming and Judas Iscariot may have been suffering twinges of conscience for what he was about to do. But looking at the painting without knowledge of the events to come, one would think they were having a great time.
After dinner, Jesus and his disciples left for the Garden of Gethsemane to meditate and pray as they often did. Now, this was not a large area, only about one acre, so they surely were within sight and sound of each other. But Jesus wanted three closer to Him as he went to pray – he asked Peter, James and John and go with him to a quieter place for him to pray. You can imagine that the noise of the rest of the disciples, having eaten and drunk their fill, was a distraction for anyone who wanted to do some intense, focused praying. So Jesus and the three men went a little further into the garden.
I would imagine that Jesus wanted Peter, James and John close by to protect him, to be able to warn him if anyone approached, to be there with him. I know when I am facing a major decision or know what is coming is not really what I want to do, it helps to have close friends near. Jesus must have felt the same way.
Jesus knelt in prayer, knowing what was about to transpire, praying that this burden might be taken from Him. He was alone and so lonely – although he had hinted of the upcoming events for several days, the disciples DID NOT GET it!
After praying he returned to Peter, James and John to find them asleep. Here he in deepest sorrow and need, and they were ASLEEP! Think how lonely He must have felt – those who were closest to Him couldn’t even stay awake long enough to share in his agony! He scolded them for sleeping, asking them to remain with Him as he prayed again.
After He prayed a second time, He returned to again find them asleep. Imagine how alone and rejected He must have felt. Those whom He trusted again had let him down. . . AGAIN. They could not comprehend the enormity and significance of the events to come.