Few places are as solemn to the mind of a disciple of Jesus as the garden east of Jerusalem at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Its name, Gethsemane, means “oil press,” and on the night before our Lord’s crucifixion, it lived up to its name.
Reading the words that record the events that night is not difficult, but to fully comprehend those events is a different matter. We can almost feel the distress that drove him into the garden to pray. We are gripped by the overwhelming grief that met him as his repeated request was refused. His chosen disciples, who had pledged their loyalty to him moments earlier, slept. Unseen, but not unknown to him, one of his own disciples marshaled a mob to seize him.
But can we ever truly grasp what he did in the garden that night? The intensity of the moment is beyond our imagination. God in the flesh poured out his heart to God the Father. Haunting cries arose from our beloved savior and burning tears coursed down his cheeks (Hebrews 5:7) as he agonized in fervent and earnest prayer over events that lay ahead. An angel’s visit offered strength; and yet, the very presence of that angel signaled the rejection of his request.
In fact, he knew the outcome before he went into the garden, but he went anyway. He knew the answer before he made the request, but he asked anyway. He entered the garden with an anxious heart, but he left with a firm resolve – a resolve to finish what he came to do. And so, as he arose from prayer, he went forth and met the approaching mob with a renewed purpose to finish the Father’s work.
At times, life’s struggles squeeze us into its “oil press.” Our struggle will never be to the extent of his that night in the garden, but what Jesus found there is exactly what we will need in such times. That he often sought refuge in the garden (Luke 22:39) should remind us how desperately we need communion with God through His word and prayer. And when we have that, even in the struggles of life, we will find the strength, perspective, and God’s direction that enables us to fulfill his purpose in our lives.