The Garden of Gethsemane is the place where Jesus prayed three times asking God to “let this cup pass” from Him (Matthew 26:39). Each time, Jesus followed His plea with a request for His Father’s will to be done.
While we weren’t allowed to step into the garden, sitting on a bench with a full view of the beautiful olive trees was enough to fill me with tear-inducing gratitude for my Savior’s sacrifice.
Jesus was fully man and fully God. He experienced human emotions and the constraints of human flesh, but He remained sinless because of His divinity.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
So, what was in the cup Jesus asked God to take from Him? Jesus knew all that He would suffer: beatings; hanging on a cross bearing the guilt of every sin, including the vilest sins; and the devasting loss He’d experience when His Father severed their connection because God’s holiness prevents Him from looking on sin.
Even so, Jesus surrendered to His Father’s will. He willingly died for our sins, enabling all who place their faith in Jesus as their Savior to have a relationship with God, who sees us through the sin-covering blood shed by His Son.
After Jesus was crucified, His body was placed in a new tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, but three days later the tomb was empty. Death was not the end of the story for Jesus, which sets Christianity apart from other religions. There were many witnesses to the resurrected Christ. Paul lists some of them in the verses that follow.
He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by
over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain
to the present, but some have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:5-6
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem encases the traditional sites of Christ’s crucifixion and the tomb in which His body was placed. Millions visit this church every year. The day we were there, the crowd was enormous, and the long line wrapped around the tomb replica prevented us from going inside.
We then went to the Garden Tomb, which is considered a possible burial site for Jesus. One reason is its proximity to Skull Hill (Golgotha).
And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull,
which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two
others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.
There are many different reasons this could be the actual location of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, but that’s not the message of the Garden Tomb. The message is this location, unlike the traditional sites, allows visitors to visually connect those events.
We were taken through the garden by a delightful British guide. Surrounded by pretty flowers and a variety of foliage, we listened to her narrative as she led us to different points of interest. This location was peaceful and not crowded. Here we were able to go into the tomb, which was empty, of course.
In this setting it was easy for me to imagine Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus gently laying the body of Jesus in the tomb. I envisioned Mary Magdalene’s first conversation with the resurrected Jesus, whom she didn’t recognize. In this garden I could understand her misidentification.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him
away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
Once we’d all been inside the tomb, we gathered in a small unadorned chapel close by to sing and share communion. I have never experienced a more meaningful holy communion. God’s presence was palpable.
It was fitting that the Garden Tomb was the final stop on our tour. I left feeling deep joy and peace. It was a shared feeling with my traveling companions, a fun and adventurous group from my church.
I’m so thankful I was able to make this pilgrimage to Israel. Travel with Friends, the travel agency employed, created an itinerary for a life-changing trip.
On this journey I learned far more than I’d anticipated, thanks to our exceptional tour guide, Adam. His knowledge and stories opened my eyes to a new world. Our driver, Money Mike, was outstanding at maneuvering our bus through intense traffic and small spaces.
I will continue to pray for peace to be restored in Israel and for God to strengthen, sustain, and protect the Israelites, the innocent, and the Holy Land.