A few hours in an ancient garden changed the world forever. Men in action, words spoken, and an unrelenting chain of events that will change the course of history and the calculation of time.
Let us time travel back to the hours in the garden of Gethsemane. In my desire to learn something new every year at Passover time, I started reading in John 18. By the sixth verse I was on my knees…
Gethsemane means oil press. It is a strong symbolic image from the Old Testament and often used as a metaphor. The oil press serves to illustrate the process of extracting the valuable oil from the olives and compare it to the godly, Holy-Spirit-in-action-process of transformation taking place in our inner beings after conversion.
People who have visited Israel tell me it is a small garden. In my research I have read that the garden consisted of about eight trees, not a sprawling orchid of trees. In the time of Jesus, it is quite certain that after the Passover meal, they would have left city limits by the Eastern Gate, go down the steep valley and cross the channel of the Kedron brook.
The brook of Kedron was the overflow from the Temple draining system. When the lambs are slaughtered, the water would turn red with the blood of the lambs. According to the Roman census of 4BC, about 256 000 lambs were killed for the Passover by this time in history.
Space in Jerusalem was too limited for private gardens; the city was built on top of a hill. There were also ceremonial prohibitions which forbade the use of manure on the soil of the sacred city. That was why the wealthy people had their private gardens outside the city on the slopes of the Mount of Olives.
There is something astonishing about the force which came out to arrest Jesus. John said that there was a company of soldiers, together with officers from the chief priests and Pharisees. The officers would be the Temple police. (The Temple authorities had a kind of private police force to keep good order, and the Sanhedrin had its police officers to carry out its decrees.) The officers, therefore, were the Jewish police force.
But there was a band of Roman soldiers there too. The Greek word for a Roman cohort is used. A cohort had six hundred men. Very rarely, the word is used for a detachment of two hundred men. Even if only two hundred came, it was a small army to take an unarmed street preacher in custody.
But what a compliment to the power of Jesus!
The night would have been bright with moonlight. There would have been no need for lanterns and torches, yet they brought them along. Did they expect to search for Jesus in dark corridors and hidden rooms?
Jesus bravely stepped out to meet them. He asked who they were looking for. When God asks questions, he is not looking for information, He is starting the conversation. They stated his name as he would have been known in the streets – Jesus of Nazareth.
But then – something happened.
He said the words: I AM he.
In the Gospel of John, the narrative tells us: (John 18:6)
Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Jesus used the words by which God names himself.
In that moment He unleashed the fullness of God onto them and they could not stay standing.
The whole army fell down at his feet. The disciples must have been astonished.
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:8)
The army could have been defeated by the breath of Jesus, but the Plan of God had to be set in motion. They scrambled up on their feet and asked again. Were they not sure? Again, the Jews amongst them, had to hear the unutterable Jehovah – I AM.
They have come to take Him by force, but the majesty of his presence paralyses all their intentions. They lay helpless before Him. He will surrender Himself because His hour is come (John 17:1), but His life no one would take from Him.
Moses asked God at the burning bush:
Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” (Exodus 3:13,14)
When Jesus said: I am he, He released the power of God over them and they were slain in the Spirit. They could not stand in the force of the energy of the Name of God.
God spoke the world into being. Mankind, even as the crown of creation, cannot stand in the Presence of the Most High.
The I AM God is our Father. It is the Name that Jesus gave us. Pray in his Name and change the world.
In that moment Jesus surrendered to the most horrific torture and death –the cruellest the ancient world could inflict. He gave himself to the worst the devil could impose. In doing that, He revealed the intents and purposes of God’s adversary.
If satan could do that to an innocent man, how much more pain would he inflict on us as fallible humans, given the chance. Jesus drew him out of his shadows and gave him free reign over his body.
Satan did his damnedest and God turned the curse into the greatest blessing of all time. Jesus fully disarmed hell and all its fury.
Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:15)
Jesus absorbed the violence of this world into his body to establish God’s way. God’s way is love, not bloodshed. Every leader, king, pope, priest and pastor that ordered the sword in the Name of God would be held accountable for thwarting God’s way and purposes.
Love is the greatest force in the universe.
After the miracle, when the army regained its footing, they prepared to take Jesus away. It was then that Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the servant Malchus.
When the church uses the sword, even to “defend” Jesus, the people’s ears are cut off. It is only a touch of Jesus himself that can heal their ears to be open to his Voice.
But there is another important point in the drama of Gethsemane.
Jesus withdrew to pray. The arrest did not interrupt his prayers. God kept them back until He was fully strengthened. Jesus won the battle there. The full impact of the horrible hellish hours ahead, was defeated in the prayer of that night in the garden. He sweated the blood He was going to shed and an angel, a representative from the celestial realm He left to endure the curse, came to strengthen him.
The battle is won in prayer in the Name of the One in front of whom no man can stay on his feet.
- And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
- Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
- “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
- “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
- Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).
- Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
- “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1).
- Sometimes they add an eighth: Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” . (John 8:58)