In February of 2016 we made our first trip to Israel.
From the Sea of Galilee to Bethlehem, it was consistently overwhelming and inspiring. Some of it went further though; some of it got into my soul and came home with me.
Right around the midway point of our trip, we headed up to the Mount of Olives to overlook Jerusalem. From there, walking down a narrow path, we approached the Garden of Gethsemane, taking a similar route the soldiers would have trekked the night they arrested Jesus.
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done." And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand."
- Matthew 26:36-46
I read this here, picturing Jesus looking up at the temple and the city walls, realizing that while he was there praying for the cup to be taken away from him and seeing the Brooke Kidron run red with blood from the Passover sacrifices and knowing that the next day, the blood running through that valley would be his own. That night, the anguish and weight that he felt is something I will never understand.
But when I feel lost, when I feel scared or anxious or the stress gets a little to much, I can look to Gethsemane. Like it says in Hebrews, 4:15, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin."
Jesus took his closest circle with him, those who had been with him for years and should have provided the support and strength he needed. These men had seen miracles and healings, demons cast out, just overwhelming evidence for the deity and power of Jesus, and he asked them to watch with him just one more night.
But, they fell asleep.
Three times they fell asleep, not even able to wait with Jesus one night while he prayed. The connection to the next few days cannot be missed here.
Peter fell asleep three times, and the next day denied Jesus three times.
Jesus remained strong and in communication with his Father, and the next day defeated sin and darkness, withstanding the whole wrath of God poured out to stand in our place. He went through a death so brutal that I can't comprehend it.
The lesson I learned that day in Gethsemane is that the battle is won or lost long before the actual fight. Our preparation, our prayer lives, our communion with the Father... this gives us the ability to stand when the storms come. And even if we are taken by surprise, we have a Savior who understands.
Recently, I turned 30 (gasp). To mark the occasion, my husband surprised me with a Tiffany & Co. Olive Branch Ring, which I have been hinting at since this trip. The sterling silver is on my finger to remind me to pray, to spend time with my Father, to fuel up at the source.
And to not fall asleep.