Sunday, May 21, 2017


Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 141: Today, I am grateful for the decision made in the garden known as Gethsemane.

A favorite quote among gardeners is "Life began in a garden." It is, of course, a reference to the Garden of Eden, where God finished his masterpiece and breathed life in human skin. Sin, also, began in that same garden with distrust, arrogance, pride and selfish ambition destroying a relationship. 

Isn't it a wonder that God would take Jesus to a garden to begin what would be the hardest day of his life on earth? Remember, the Jewish day begins at sunset the night before. 

"The word gethsemane is derived from two Hebrew words: gat, which means "a place for pressing oil (or wine)" and shemanim, which means "oils." " -Ray Vander Laan

Ray Vander Laan, a master in divinity and continuing education in Jewish studies, believes that to deeply understand the Bible, we must not forget it was written in a culture, reflecting the people and the ways of the day. It is timeless, but with the cultural clarity... it comes to life in new, exciting ways. Archeology, cultural studies and God's word come together, brilliantly illuminated. Ray created videos we watched years ago. I still remember some of the big "ah-ha" moments the  "wows" at how God's timing is perfect and His truth is clear. Good stuff (not meant to be an advertisement... but it got me hooked on digging deeper).

Imagine this... Jesus fasting and going up against the devil in the desert. He did not submit to brutal temptations at his lowest moments. He has been where we are.

Then, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane... the garden's name with roots in the idea of a place for pressing (oil or wine) and "shemanium" meaning oils. This is the place where Jesus prayed with the weight of our sins pressing in on him, but he did not reject or refuse the Father's will and his plan. He asked to have it removed, but God said "no". 

In that garden where he was pressed down by our transgressions, Jesus submitted saying, "not my will, but your will be done."  The burden was unimaginable. It pressed him down and he asked for a way to "remove the cup". The Father did not spare the Son who would redeem many with his choice. 

 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. -Luke 22:44

Think about the things you already know... or are learning for the first time.

God's holiness is repelled by sin. Like opposing magnetic forces. Jesus loved us enough to sacrifice himself for our redemption. To change us for sin-loving to God seeking beings. He didn't want to do it, but he was uniquely qualified for the battle. Jesus was heaven's special forces on a redemption mission.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. -Luke 22:42-43

The Jewish custom of atonements involved the sacrifice of a perfect lamb... and anointing oils represent an outpouring of God's spirit. Pressed down and poured out was our willing, conquering Savior. Because he said yes to the trial... he claimed the victory over death, for him and for us. Our soul breaths marked for eternity for those who accept the gift, believe and receive. Redeemed and restored.

I think it interesting that the oil of the Bible... olive oil.. is known for it's health benefits more than 2000 years later. Our God does not change. 

His ways are perfect. Not always easy, smooth ride... but always perfect. As we accept and press on and through the trials, we grow and become "big picture people". Our small stories are a part of his plan to redeem all who will say yes to the Lord's invitation to know him and love him. 

Sin began in a garden... and in a garden, a humble "thy will be done" would defeat Satan. It would insure suffering... but change the end outcome for all who would choose to believe and receive the atoning gift of his blood pressed down and poured out for us. 

What parent wouldn't take the beating and punishment of death for a child they loved? As a child, the telling of Jesus in the Garden and the cross made me sad. As a grown up, it reveals his love for me as a profound and conscious decision to love and sacrifice himself for the sin of the human race. For me. And, you. He was broken... and beautiful. 

Holy meets the hideous and broken. The Holy One says, "My love can transform you, but it comes at a price. I will pay that price for you, because you do not have the means on your own."  Then, the decision is left to the one who desperately needs restoration. Intimacy required. We must confess to receive the gift.  

We are not quite finished with the garden thoughts. In another garden came the astonishing truth that "He is not here. He has risen." The victory won. Look at John 19:41-

"Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid."

Mary Magdalene gets the garden surprise when the three days in the grave are over. He appears to her in the garden near the tomb. Once again, life begins anew... in a garden. New life. New hope. A new way. 

Choices in Gethsemane echo into eternity, as do our choices today. 

Today, I am grateful for the decision made in the garden known as Gethsemane.

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