Sunday, June 18, 2006
This is going to be pretty long but after my last post, I wanted to re-visit something I wrote a couple of months ago after visiting the Garden of Gethsemane:

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses

And the voice I hear, falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

I'd stay in the garden with Him
'Tho the night around me be falling
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

“In The Garden” was one of my maternal grandma’s favorite songs. Her garden was her backyard, which included a flower and vegetable garden. She spent a lot of time there. I could not help but think of this song when we visited one of the places I was most looking forward to seeing in Israel, the Garden of Gethsemane. He was truly walking and talking with us that day.

I believe that the Garden represents a turning point in Christianity. This is when it becomes obvious that Jesus’ ministry on earth was going to be called short, and that his ragtag band of followers would be left on their own. This is so different from what most of us think about when it comes to “leadership” … most of us think along the lines of long tenure, extensive mentoring and teaching, building up countless leaders beneath ourselves, hoping that at least a few of them will carry on in our absence. But that wasn’t going to be the way that Jesus would leave His followers. This was going to be more of a “you’re it, I’ve taught you well, now swim” proposition for them.

It was much to my pleasant surprise that we found the Garden of Gethsemane appearing much as it probably did 2000 years ago, though it is smaller now than it was then. It has not been covered over by several layers of cathedrals though the beautiful and inspiring Church of All Nations is adjacent to it. There are trees in the Garden that are estimated to be more than 2000 years old. Olive trees, I was told, can live for forever. The main trunks become very gnarled and even petrified in appearance but they will still send off fresh, live shoots of green. From the Garden, as you look out toward and over the city of Jerusalem, you can begin to picture the horrible events which would unfold in the days following Jesus’ last visit to the Garden of Gethsemane.

Gethsemane means “oil press” which would have been a large stone “press” (imagine a very overgrown mortar and pestle) used to squeeze oil out of olives. For Jesus, the Garden would have indeed been a time of the “press” … a press that would continue for several days until His resurrection. When He was in the press, He agonized over finding an easy way out but ultimately He gave way to His father’s will. That idea of being in the press and yet realizing that God is in control, I am in His hands, and I must seek and follow His will is a tough one for me. My ugly old “self” always wants to jump in feet-first and worry about doing things my own way instead of His way.

We were in the Garden early on a Sunday morning. This was about a month before Easter that year. We actually had the area pretty much to ourselves for 90 or so minutes. There was a private outdoor chapel where we held our church service that day. And then we had time to wander, sit, meditate, read, write, and pray on our own in the Garden. This is one of my best memories from the trip. I wrote the following while we were there:

Dear Jesus,

I feel so very unworthy of sitting here where you made the decision to give your life for me. You were born for greatness yet you still had a decision to make. Your father would have saved you, His “only son,” had you just asked. All Dads would do that. The agony you suffered, I cannot imagine. You knew fully that what lay ahead of you would be truly horrible. Yet you chose it, you chose to follow through with your Father’s plan – His plan for me. I thank you. I just pray, Lord, that I will be the person you want me to be. That I will do the things you want me to do. That I will show your love the way I am called to. Please forgive me for my sins, for all the years when I just did not “get it,” for all the wasted opportunities. Forgive me for the times when I complain that things are tough. Things are never truly tough for me. My problems pale in comparison with what you faced yet furthermore, regardless, you are always there with me.

As I sit here, I hear the birds chirping. Your eye is on the sparrow and the sparrows you knew are just like the ones back home. I know your eye is on me. Thank you, father, thank you.

I also hear the city sounds outside this garden, reminders of the world beyond these walls. Reminders of a world which still rejects you, tries to water down or hide away what you, the greatest teacher of all time, taught us.

Help me as I go back out into that world. Help me to remember this place. Help me to remember your love. (Help me to remember that huge fly that just landed on my journal.)

Lord, you have blessed me so richly. I thank you. You bless me continually and unquestioningly. I thank you. I re-dedicate my life to you, Jesus. I want a relationship with you that is what you want it to be. I want to walk with you at all times.

I cannot imagine your love which caused you to give your life and endure horrible agony for me. I pray that I will always show your love to others. Help me to hear your call and to be responsive to it. Mold me how you want. I want to follow you always. You gave your life for me, the least I can do is live my life for you. Thy will be done. I love you.

Here’s a part of Matthew 26 (MSG), and its telling of what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Then Jesus told them, "Before the night's over, you're going to fall to pieces because of what happens to me. There is a Scripture that says, I'll strike the shepherd; helter-skelter the sheep will be scattered. But after I am raised up, I, your Shepherd, will go ahead of you, leading the way to Galilee."

Peter broke in, "Even if everyone else falls to pieces on account of you, I won't."

"Don't be so sure," Jesus said. "This very night, before the rooster crows up the dawn, you will deny me three times."

Peter protested, "Even if I had to die with you, I would never deny you." All the others said the same thing.

Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, "Stay here while I go over there and pray." Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, "This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me."

Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, "My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?"

When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, "Can't you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don't wander into temptation without even knowing you're in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there's another part that's as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire."

He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, "My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I'm ready. Do it your way."

When he came back, he again found them sound asleep. They simply couldn't keep their eyes open. This time he let them sleep on, and went back a third time to pray, going over the same ground one last time.

When he came back the next time, he said, "Are you going to sleep on and make a night of it? My time is up, the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the hands of sinners. Get up! Let's get going! My betrayer is here."

The words were barely out of his mouth when Judas (the one from the Twelve) showed up, and with him a gang from the high priests and religious leaders brandishing swords and clubs. The betrayer had worked out a sign with them: "The one I kiss, that's the one--seize him." He went straight to Jesus, greeted him, "How are you, Rabbi?" and kissed him.

Jesus said, "Friend, why this charade?"

Then they came on him--grabbed him and roughed him up. One of those with Jesus pulled his sword and, taking a swing at the Chief Priest's servant, cut off his ear.

Jesus said, "Put your sword back where it belongs. All who use swords are destroyed by swords. Don't you realize that I am able right now to call to my Father, and twelve companies--more, if I want them--of fighting angels would be here, battle-ready? But if I did that, how would the Scriptures come true that say this is the way it has to be?"

Then Jesus addressed the mob: "What is this--coming out after me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal? Day after day I have been sitting in the Temple teaching, and you never so much as lifted a hand against me. You've done it this way to confirm and fulfill the prophetic writings."
Then all the disciples cut and ran.

“Cut and ran.” Wow. One of the thoughts that kept occurring to me in the Garden was that this was a point where Jesus publicly and firmly made obvious His choice of sacrifice for me. If He can do that for me, am I not betraying Him if I do not live a life of sacrifice for Him? Am I not “cutting and running” when I do not give and do my all for Him?

But what is “my all”? I must confess I do not know. I know that part of it is listening for His call in my life but sometimes I wonder if giving my all, being willing to sacrifice for His work just as He sacrificed for me, doesn’t call me to be a bit more proactive than that. We recently held a capital campaign at church and the theme focused heavily on the concept of “sacrifice”. I must admit that, in this life, I am so richly blessed that I really do not know what sacrifice is. If I give up one thing or two things or three things or four things, I still have a bajillion other blessings right behind those which bring me comfort. What is the point at which I am really truly sacrificing? I must confess that, even now, I simply do not know. Now, sometimes I know that I can take fairly easy concepts and make them way too complex. I do this at work all the time. But, fact is, I do not understand what “sacrifice” should mean to me in my life. Knowing that all I have now and in the future comes from God, the idea that I can even begin to “sacrifice” seems a bit silly. He will always meet my needs, no matter what.

I have, for the past several months, been incredibly affected by a Todd Agnew song called “My Jesus”. To me, this song starts to point out the real difference between living a life of comfort and a life of sacrifice … the difference between living in the “comfortable” life into which most of us have been born and live or really giving it all up to serve others and show God’s love to them.
Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Then why do you look so much like the world?

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant
So which one do you want to be?

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand

Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with thieves and sluts and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the rich
So which one do you want to be?

Who is this that you follow
This picture of the American dream
If Jesus was here would you walk right by on the other side or fall down and worship at His holy feet

Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for Your sins
But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part
Sometimes I doubt we'd recognize Him

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?

Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despised the proud
I think He'd prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud

I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!

Not a posterchild for American prosperity, but like my Jesus
You see I'm tired of living for success and popularity
I want to be like my Jesus but I'm not sure what that means to be like You Jesus
Cause You said to live like You, love like You but then You died for me
Can I be like You Jesus?
I want to be like my Jesus

That song really gets to me. Can I really live like, love like Jesus? Do I even have any remote concept of what that really means? This jibes so well with the story of Jesus’ decision for self-sacrifice in the scripture I listed before the song lyrics, Matthew 26:36-51. I could read and think about it for forever I believe.

“Friend, why this charade?” is what Jesus speaks to Judas. First of all, His use of the word “friend” is striking. Would I ever be able to call my betrayer “friend”? Probably not … okay, definitely not. Jesus’ response shows the supernatural love He had – a love that as we know exceeded all other love. He knew what Judas’ kiss would mean … He knew the betrayal that He was caught up in the midst of yet He still called him “friend”. I wonder, too, how often in my life could Jesus say “Why this charade?” to me? How often do I give lip service to my faith and my Christian life but then still don’t stop and pick up the hitchhiker, or I give just a few spare coins to the beggar (if anything at all), shaking them off when they ask for more? How often do I pretend in my mind that I am living a life of sacrifice but yet I still drive in my comfortable gas-guzzler to my comfortable house in a nice neighborhood? How often do I go out to eat in nice restaurants when there are so many of God’s children all around me with very little to eat? Is it more than just a lack of knowledge of what sacrifice is and actually a refusal on my part to sacrifice? If that is the case, I am going to have a lot to answer for some day. Jesus sacrificed so much for me … why is it so practically inconceivable for me to do the same for Him?

“There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there's another part that's as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire." I may often have dreams of sacrifice, dreams of living a life that is all-out for the One who sacrificed for me but how often am I actually the lazy old dog sleeping by the fire? I picked up a small piece of pottery from the grounds in the Garden of Gethsemane. The only pottery I picked up in Israel in fact. Let’s hope that it reminds me to not spend my time sleeping by the fire.

  posted at 7:18 AM  


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Todd M


An ordinary guy. A wife I love very much. A great son. Wonderful friends. A metal roofing business and a sales training business. A loving church family. A few trade associations. A Christian school. And a four-pound poodle. Just trying to follow God and see where He leads.

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