A typical day for this tour has been a wake-up call at 6:30 AM. Breakfast at 7:00. Board the bus at 8:00. A lunch break around 12:00 or 1:00. And back at the hotel around 5:00. After a hot shower, a little rest and a buffet dinner, we’re usually ready to call it an evening. Yesterday was no exception.
There were many highlights on Monday’s tour. What a thrill it was to stand on the Mount of Olives. And what an incredible view. And as an added bonus Norma Jean rode a camel.
We visited the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and saw the traditional site of Jesus’ birthplace. While there we went to the Kando store that has on display one of the original jars that contained the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Something that was not on the schedule, but I’m glad was added, was a visit to the Herodian, a palace-fortress built by Herod the Great to serve as the place for his burial. Several us walked through one of the tunnels there.
The day ended with a visit to the city of David and a walk through Hezekiah’s tunnel (2 Kings 20:20).
But the highlight for me was to walk through the Garden of Gethsemane. I pictured Jesus’ taking the disciples there as recorded by all three synoptic writers (Matt 26:36-36; Mk. 14:32-31; Lk. 22:29-46).
The hour was late. Much had happened. The last supper. Prideful posturing. Washing feet. Judas’ departure. And the ensuing walk across the Kedron valley with Jesus teaching. Encouraging. Comforting. And promising.
Peter, James, and John are invited to walk a little farther, as Jesus entered into prayer to the Father.
Struggle. Sorrow. Supplication. These words describe Jesus’ emotions in Gethsemane’s garden as Thursday turned into Friday.
And what words describe the disciples? Weariness. Slumbering. Sleeping. Jesus simply asked them, “Stay here and keep watch with me.”
But while the Savior prayed. The disciples slept.
You can hear the disappointment in Jesus’ voice as he asked “What? Could you not watch with me one hour?”
Then he issued this heartfelt exhortation. “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The gospel writers document this scene repeated itself two more times. Jesus’ response? “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”
It was there that Judas Iscariot placed the betrayal kiss on Jesus’ cheek. And He was arrested and led away to be tried. And ultimately crucified.
“Watch and pray.” Those words ring in my ears.
Indeed the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I know all too well. I feel the disciples’ frailty. Their feebleness. Their temptation. Their embarrassment in the presence of Jesus.
I’ve been there. Spiritually asleep when I should have been awake. Slumbering when I should have been aroused to action. Negligent when I should have been vigilant. Inattentive when I should have been alert.
“Watch and pray.” I need to hear those words. I need to spend time in Gethsemane. Not just the literal walk in that beautiful garden. But the spiritual awareness of what it means to my daily life.
I need Gethsemane to better appreciate Jesus’ mental and emotional agony, suffering and sorrow.
I need Gethsemane to learn from Jesus about obedience, submission, and surrender.
I need Gethsemane to conform my will to the Father’s will.
And when I face my Gethsemane’s of loneliness, loss, disappointment, and even betrayal, I can know that Jesus understands how I feel. And Jesus cares.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman