After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ They answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus replied, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he’, they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’ This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, ‘I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.’
My nearest experience to that of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane dates back to my City business days. I was the managing director of a PR consultancy, and that particular week, I knew that something was up. My fellow directors – my friends – started to act strangely. They probably had before but I had not noticed – and the tension grew as the week evolved. We were scheduled to have a board meeting on the Thursday afternoon, and I had a real sense of foreboding. The few hours before the meeting were agony, and I spent them in a quasi second state, readying myself for the worst. As the meeting started, it was obvious that it would end badly, and indeed it did. I was escorted from the boardroom to my office to collect my personal belongings and then to the door, and on to the street. I had founded the company three years before.
In the season of Lent, we have reflected on our wilderness, and today, we see the culmination of what it means for Jesus – the lonely furrow of the leader, teaching, preaching, healing, gathering community and trying to impart a sense of the unconditional love of God to a people hungry for it, and to church leaders fearful of losing control. The inevitable development to his ministry is sacrifice and death, that the world may live.
As we go today from the garden of sorrows to the cross at Golgotha, we are reminded that the Christian journey is not easy, and indeed often costly in ways that we may not imagine. But after death, we have hope. And so as we watch the body of Jesus being taken down from the cross to his tomb, a place of finality and endings, we know that this is not God’s final word. And so we watch, and wait.
Vicar, All Hallows by the Tower