“A Place Called Gethsemane!”
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Meditation Notes (Maundy Thursday ~ April 9, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
As we join Jesus and His Disciples in the passage we just read from the gospel of Mark chapter 14, they are already in the midst of an eventful night. They have just finished the Passover celebration, left the room where they celebrated Passover and made their way from Jerusalem down through the Kidron Valley to A Place Called Gethsemane.
Our text tonight focuses on what happened when Jesus and His disciples arrived at Gethsemane. I would like for us tonight to spend a few minutes together considering what took place in Gethsemane that night and how this speaks in a profound way to that our world has been going through.
In many ways, Gethsemane is harder for Jesus than Calvary – these will be the darkest hours of Jesus’ life. It’s true that the decisive spiritual battle that Jesus came to fight will be fought on Calvary, but it’s Gethsemane where Jesus waits on the edge of a battle he can’t escape; a battle that will be most terrifying to His soul. I believe that our world today is in Gethsemane. These are very uncertain and troubling times.
But as it is so often the case in our lives, the darkest moments in Jesus’ life are also those times when the grace of God shines the brightest, and in the deep valley of Gethsemane we get one of the clearest views of the highest peaks of God’s love and presence.
Tonight, as we remember our Lord’s last hours in the Garden of Gethsemane, I want to point out two important facts about Jesus’ Gethsemane and ours. First, let’s consider Gethsemane as a place of pressure.
First: Gethsemane as a Place of Pressure
Gethsemane is an Aramaic name. The word Gethsemane means “Olive Press”. Gethsemane was, and is, a place where olive trees grew and produced their fruit. The olives were collected, placed in a press and the precious olive oil was extracted from the olives under very intense pressure.
Gethsemane was a small garden, just outside the city of Jerusalem. It probably belonged to a friend of the Lord. In Luke 22:39, Luke tells us it was a place Jesus often visited with His disciples. Gethsemane seems to have been a refuge for the Lord. It was a place where He could find solitude from the crowds and ministry that occupied His life. It was a place where He could go to find a private moment to commune with His Father. It was a sanctuary from the attacks of His enemies. It was a place of refreshment from the long days of ministry. It was a special place for the Lord and His disciples.
Jesus and His disciples arrive at Gethsemane. On this night, our Lord would enter the “Olive Press” and the sweet oil of grace and submission to the Father would be extracted from the Lord’s life. For Jesus, the garden of Gethsemane would be a place of intense pressures. In fact, our Scripture passage tonight tells us about some of the pressures Jesus faced that night. Mark 14:33-34 states, “He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.”
The very language of these verses reveals the truth that Jesus Christ is in a time of intense
emotional and spiritual trial. He knows He is about to suffer intense physical pain. He knows that
He is about to become sin on a cross. He knows that He is about to be judged by His Father. He
knows that, for the first time in eternity, there will be a breech in the unbroken fellowship He has
enjoyed with His Father. He knows that He will be abandoned by His followers. He knows that
He is about to be tried, rejected and condemned to death by the very people He came to save.
Gethsemane was a place of pressure; but, second, Gethsemane was a place of prayer.
Second: Gethsemane as a Place of Prayer
When they got to Gethsemane, Jesus left eight of His disciples at the gate of the garden and took three, Peter, James and John, deeper with Him into the garden. These three disciples were to keep their eyes open for trouble, and they were to pray with Him, and probably, for Him as He prayed.
Mark 14:35-36 tells us, “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible, the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Jesus fell to the ground and began to call on His Father. He addressed God as, “Abba” ... “Abba, Father,” Jesus said. “Abba” is an Aramaic term that is equivalent to our word “daddy”. It is a word of intense intimacy. Jesus enjoyed such intimacy with His Father that He felt most comfortable calling Him “Daddy”.
Friends, in Christ, we have the same privilege to call God “Abba Father”, “Daddy.” Through Jesus, we have the same privileges that Jesus enjoyed. We are brought into a place of absolute intimacy with the Father!
In Gethsemane, Jesus renewed His trust in His Father’s power ““Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you”, but Jesus also prayed for God’s will to be done in His life “Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Luke tells us in chapter 22:43 “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” For every Gethsemane experience you and I have to face, there is an angel from heaven who will be ready to strengthen those who pray for God’s will to be done. Gethsemane is a place of pressure, but it is also a place of prayer and a place of encountering God in a very special way. If we are to follow the example of our Lord, this night should cause us to awake out of our sleep and get busy for the Lord. This is an hour that calls for action. It is NOT a time for God’s people to sleep. It’s a time to fall on our knees and ask for God’s forgiveness, His presence, His strength, and His will. A place called Gethsemane; yes, it is a place of pressure, but it is also a place of prayer. Amen.
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