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Posts Tagged ‘Garden of Gethsemane’

These days leading up to Easter are always filled with mixed emotions for me. I feel so joyful and relieved when I think about Easter Sunday, when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Yet I always feel a sense of dread too, as Good Friday approaches, because those last days of Jesus’ earthly life held such pain for him on many different levels.

This year in preparation for Easter, I decided to read the last few chapters of Luke’s Gospel again slowly, wanting—yet not wanting—to follow Jesus’ journey to the cross. And, as always, I found new challenges awaiting me and a whole new appreciation for the huge sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf.

Central to this was the way Jesus remained in control of all that took place. For our sake, he allowed those terrible events to happen to him. For us, he deliberately remained at the mercy of Pilate, Herod, the soldiers, the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard and the crowd who shouted, ‘Crucify him!’ The physical pain he endured through it all, even before his crucifixion, must have been absolutely excruciating. But what challenged me most this time as I read was the deep mental, emotional and spiritual anguish he must have suffered, as he was mocked and ridiculed. Yet he took it all—for you and for me—and I still find that hard to fathom.

When Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he forbids his followers to defend him in any physical way. When one of them strikes the high priest’s servant and cuts off his ear, Jesus even goes to the extent of healing the wounded man (Luke 22:51). Yet further on in that same chapter, we read how Jesus himself is not only beaten, but cruelly mocked and made fun of too.

The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” And they said many other insulting things to him. Luke 22:63-64

How did Jesus, the Saviour of the world, put up with such taunts? How shameful that the Son of God, who knows all things, was blindfolded as if a child taking part in some party game and challenged to guess who hit him! It makes my blood boil just to read it. I myself am often too proud to accept any sort of rebuke or hint of insult or blame. Yet Jesus, who had done nothing wrong and instead healed and restored so many, took this shameful rubbish and cruel play-acting on our behalf.

I read on then, as Jesus quietly answers the chief priests and teachers of the law the next morning and is taken before Pilate, then passed over to Herod. And here the scoffing and taunting continues.

Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.  Luke 23:11

Yet Jesus does not retaliate or even speak out to defend himself. Instead, when he is eventually led away and hangs on that cross, he prays:

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

What amazing love Jesus showed for us—what a beautiful Saviour we have! This Easter, let’s truly remember this and worship Jesus with all our heart.

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Jo 17I have always loved Easter. As a child, of course it meant Easter eggs, which, for some reason in our household, were brought by the ‘Easter bird’ and put in our upturned hats on our beds on Easter Sunday morning! But in our family, Good Friday was always a very quiet, solemn day. Occasionally, we would attend the three-hour service at our local Anglican church where we would sing and pray and listen to Scripture readings, as we stood in front of various pictures on the walls depicting Jesus’ journey to the cross.

And that Good Friday solemnity stays with me to this day. Each Easter, I like to make my own solemn journey through one of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ last days. I like to read these chapters slowly and carefully, identifying with Jesus as best I can and trying to comprehend the enormity of his sacrifice for us all. But this Easter, I also decided to read 1 John again and was soon pulled up short by the following words:

Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. 1 John 2:6

Whoa! Walk as Jesus did? What a challenge! And what should that look like for me right now, in the midst of our coronavirus measures? Immediately, my thoughts went to some of the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion that I had been reading about in Luke’s Gospel. How did Jesus walk through each day then, in the light of his impending death?

I remembered how Jesus told his disciples he had ‘eagerly desired’ to eat the Passover meal with them (Luke 22:15) and how he gave them such a powerful way of remembering him that still ministers to us today, as he shared the bread and wine with them. I remembered too how Jesus reached out and healed the high priest’s servant whose ear was cut off in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:51). And I also recalled how, even as the soldiers put Jesus on that cross, he asked his Father to forgive them because they were acting in ignorance (Luke 23:34). Then, out of perfect love for us and perfect obedience, he gave his life for us all.

What sobering reminders of how selflessly Jesus lived! But how should it all play out in my life now in this time of semi-isolation at home?

  • I can pray for God to intervene and have mercy on our desperate world. And I can pray especially for those who do not know God’s love and have no firm foundation in life.
  • I can contact family and friends in various ways to encourage them.
  • I can give financially to those in need and also support our church as our pastors continue to serve us.
  • I can watch my attitude at the shops, choosing to be generous rather than selfish. And I can live considerately at home too out of a place of peace rather than fear and turmoil.
  • As a writer, I can ask for God’s guidance and work hard at wording things well so that my readers will be blessed and encouraged.

May we all allow Jesus’ selflessness to impact us this Easter. And may we all learn to walk a little more as he would in this challenging time in our world.

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IMG_20150107_084323086I sat holding our one year old granddaughter as I fed her some dinner. Things went along smoothly at first—but then, as that spoon came close once again, she pressed her lips tightly together and turned her head away. Now I had experienced that tactic before—but it was what happened next that almost caused me to drop spoon and plate and all.

‘No!’ she declared, with great finality.

At first, I thought I had imagined it. Surely she couldn’t talk yet? Of course, I had heard her previous vague attempts at ‘Hi!’ and ‘Up!’ and ‘Boo!’ Now, however, she had said a word I could not dispute—a word she had clearly decided was most useful to have in one’s vocabulary.

I’m sure our little Maxine will have many opportunities to employ this word in the future—much to the annoyance of her parents at times! There will come moments too when it is important she does say it and turn down others who might lead her astray. Even with regard to eating dinner, she seemed to know when she had had enough. But the shock of hearing this tiny word emerge from her mouth caused me to reflect later on how I use it in my own life—for good or for ill.

I wish I had learnt years ago to say no to certain requests a little more often. On occasions, I have too readily agreed to do things—and almost burnt myself out as a result. Yet sometimes I have said no simply because I did not care about someone else’s welfare enough to put myself out for him or her or because I wanted to do something much more enjoyable. And what about those occasions when I have turned God down? How many times has God gently prompted me to take some course of action or challenged me to attempt something new and my immediate response has been a resounding ‘No!’?

I am not so fond of the word ‘obedience’, I have discovered. For some reason, if I am told to do something, I often want to do the exact opposite. I want to reach my own conclusions about what I do or don’t do. I want to weigh it all up and decide for myself. Yet, at this point in my life, I have also realised that, when God calls me to act in a certain way, it truly is much wiser to say yes rather than no. I know I can trust God to lead me well, as Psalm 23 clearly shows. And I know I need to learn from Jesus who always did what his Father called him to do, who chose in that Garden of Gethsemane to do his Father’s will and not his own (Mt 26:39), who did not say no but instead ‘humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!’ (Phil 2:8)

I hope our little granddaughter learns to say no when it’s right to do so. But I also hope and pray she learns to say yes to the many things that will be good for her—and especially to God. And I hope and pray I continue to do the same.

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Jo 17I love Easter. Apart from anything else, I enjoy this time of the year, as autumn leaves begin to appear everywhere and there is a promise of cooler days to come. I love witnessing the pleasure on the faces of children as they receive Easter eggs. I love seeing relatives or friends who take the time to visit. But, above all, I love the opportunity it brings to stop and reflect once again on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

This year, I read the account of the last weeks of Jesus’ life on earth in Matthew’s Gospel and, as often happens, it was as if I had never read some parts before. Yet I have—many times. And maybe these particular verses have even impacted me deeply before. But I am good at forgetting—and no, it has nothing to do with age! We all need this constant reminding, I believe, of what it cost God to send Jesus to die for us. We all need to allow those words written so long ago and the words Jesus himself spoke to pierce our hearts again and to spur us on to be and to do all God has for us to be and do.

I came to Matthew 26:34-35 and began to read how Jesus predicted Peter’s denial.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

Now I know I have read these verses before—there is a big pen mark in my old Bible beside the last sentence there which shows me it impacted me on at least one other occasion. Yet this time, the sadness of those final, few words almost overwhelmed me. I had remembered Peter’s assertion that he would never disown Jesus. But I had forgotten how all the other disciples had joined in as well. How difficult it must have been for Jesus to listen to their promises, knowing they would not be kept—at least not immediately anyway.

I read on and came to the scene in Gethsemane where Jesus asks Peter, James and John to keep watch with him while he prays.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Mt 26:38

The disciples knew exactly how Jesus was feeling—yet three times when he returns from praying, he finds them asleep. Surely he felt utterly forsaken and devastated enough, without being so let down by those closest to him? Again, I felt deep sadness on his behalf—yet also compassion for those three disciples. After all, I may not have been faithful enough to be anywhere near the Garden of Gethsemane that night.

Yes, these verses might have made for sad reading–but what a privilege to enter fully into Easter with Jesus and to realise once again his incredible love for you and me. Easter 2015 has left me feeling so grateful, as well as strengthened and somehow enriched.

May you too have experienced something of that same strengthening and enriching as you identified with our Saviour in your own way this Easter.

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