The events leading up to the end of the week were also bringing the gift of salvation to all mankind. When we approach the final days of life, our mind tends to wonder what it was all for. We aren’t the same as we once were. We experience physical pain and have endured emotional loss along the way. Our spiritual growth is also coming to an end as we near heaven’s holy entrance. We’ve been weeded, broken, replanted, grafted, and pruned. From the point of view of an old gardemer, named Ilan (which is the Hebrew word for tree) we learn what he might have witnessed as he finished up his duties in the Garden of Gethsemane that night so long ago.
ILAN, THE GARDENER
I don’t know how much longer I can continue on this way.
My back is breaking from the constant bending. Why do I put myself through this day after day? My knees are worn out from the years of trudging the olive grove. My skin is shriveled and leathery from the afternoon sun. I’m eighty years old. I should be resting at the seaside, but here I stay. This garden has seen many an invader – not just the tenacious weeds that swirl in and out, sapping life from the beautiful plants. My country has been under seige for years and years. When Moses led my people out of bondage, they thought things would get better, but they just became a slavery of a different sort.
Now I’m all alone. My family has moved on. My wife died two years ago. For over fifty years she took care of me. She massaged my back after along day of hard work. She attended my broken and sun burned skin with herbs and oil. I miss her tender touch. I often wonder why the Lord continues to let me remain in these troubling times. I long to go to heaven, but know there must be a reason for remaining behind. So I’ll continue at my work until that day comes, even though my hands now resemeble the distorted trunks of the olive trees I look after.
The sun had finally dropped into the horizon as I gathered the tools of my trade and packed them into the cart. The road home seemed to get longer and longer each day. That night I decided to sleep under the stars and save myself the anguish of stumbling home to an empty house. The garden was a place of refuge for many. No one would notice an old man sleeping under an olive tree. Just as I was about to nod off, I heard men talking. The effects of aging had clouded my vision somewhat, but I could tell It was the man Jesus and three of his friends. I’d heard Jesus preach over the last couple years. He had words that brought comfort and that I could relate to. He spoke often of planting seeds and reaping a good harvest. He obviously knew a lot about gardening. He even called Himself the vine.
Jesus had often ventured into my garden. It was the perfect place to get away from the massive crowds that followed Him. He often spent time meditating and praying in that place. This night He told His disciples to be vigilant and watch for any intrusions. They fell asleep the minute Jesus left. He scolded them for not being attentive. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He then returned to pray again. As I peaked through the gnarled branches, I couldn’t help but notice that this man of faith was obviously struggling with something. He wept as He spoke to God. It looked as though those tears were droplets of blood. He seemed to be longing for the advice of His father and asking for a way out. I didn’t hear His words, but at His final Amen, He turned and moved with a look of resolution. He was ready for whatever lay ahead.
Suddenly I could see lights flashing in the distance and the heavy marching of armored feet entering the area. Jesus said to the men, “Who is it you want?” They said they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus replied, “I am He.” His was like the voice of God Himself. The power of that moment, sent the soldiers turning and falling on their backs.
In that moment events started to unfold at heart racing speed. Peter raised his sword and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers. Jesus retrieved the ear and reattached it to the man like no surgeon ever could. A man ran off and lost his garment. It was extreme chaos. The disciples scattered. Jesus willingly went with the entourage as a sheep going to the slaughter. He never complained. He could’ve sent an army of angels, but He spoke not a word.
In an instant, everything stopped. The garden returned to evening silence as stars shone brightly in the heavens. I thought of an ancient Psalm I had learned as a young boy.
“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord.” Psalm 37:39
I fell asleep knowing that there was nothing I could do to obtain salvation. It would have to come from the Lord alone. I was a witness to the beginning of it all.