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Good Friday: In the Garden of Gethsemane

04.18.19 | Lent | by Rev. Victoria Robb Powers

Good Friday: In the Garden of Gethsemane

    Gethsemane marks the place where Judas betrayed Jesus, where his inner circle of disciples were too weak to keep awake and wait with him, where Peter, despite his promises and protestations, denied him three times, and where even an unknown young follower fled naked into the night from the scene of his arrest – his cowardice exposed for all to see.

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    Back in March, I took a trip to the Holy Land with 140 other members of our church. I got to see so many things and experience so many sacred moments. Jesus felt so close at times I thought I could reach out and touch him.

    There were certain churches I never wanted to leave. The Church of the Annunciation, which commemorates the moment that Mary was first told she would bear a son named Jesus, was so holy and beautiful I remember crying when it was time to go. For whatever reason, I felt her company there – her joy, her hope, her fear.

    Not all of Israel feels so sacred but a lot of it does. It’s full of so many things that memorialize the Jesus I have loved for so long. It’s a place that invigorates the faith and warms the human heart.

    There was one place, though, that didn’t warm my heart at all. It was the Garden of Gethsemane. It stands at the foot of the mountain of olives facing old Jerusalem.

    There’s a church next to the garden called the Church of All Nations. I remember stepping inside, but I didn’t stay long. When you think about it, it’s odd that we would build a church to memorialize one of the darkest moments in Christ’s life.

    Gethsemane marks the place where Judas betrayed Jesus, where his inner circle of disciples were too weak to keep awake and wait with him, where Peter, despite his promises and protestations, denied him three times, and where even an unknown young follower fled naked into the night from the scene of his arrest – his cowardice exposed for all to see. It was here that Jesus was betrayed, deserted, and denied.

    I led our group in a short devotional as we gathered around the olive trees. I read the passage of scripture that tells the story of these events in the garden. The story of when Jesus, in his greatest hour of need, was abandoned by all of his friends.

    I’ve known this story for a long time, but there’s something about reading it while standing in the garden that makes you acutely aware of your own betrayal of Jesus. Suddenly it became painfully obvious how many times I’ve fallen asleep on Jesus in his time of need. How many times the world has cried out for a hand, and I never extended one. How many times I ran away because of my own cowardice.

    As Christians, we are notorious of going straight from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. We shout hosanna one week and alleluia the next, and we forget all the words that were shouted in between. Words of lament, grief, anger, betrayal, and so forth. It makes sense why we don’t spend any time here. Who would want to? It’s only natural to want to praise the empty tomb instead of kneeling at the cross. Who wants to acknowledge their own denial of Jesus, which was what crucified him in the first place?

    It is a temptation to rush towards Easter and minimize much of what made Easter possible and necessary. But if we don’t acknowledge the events between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday then we don’t understand the full goodness of the resurrection. We don’t understand the incredible mercy that Jesus bestows upon us when he asks God to forgive us for we know not what we do.

    So today, can you sit and be still? Can you embrace the sadness, dwell with the grief, and even await the unavoidable suffering that comes Christ’s way? Or will you so urgently demand the resurrection that you’ll abandon our Lord along the way?

    May our denial of suffering not be so strong, so pervasive, that we forget that it is, indeed, a crucified God that we follow. May you sit in darkness and wait for the light to make its way.

    Amen.


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