“No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
I can’t think of a more selfless job than to serve in the military. To be willing to separate yourself from the ones you love and possibly die for the freedom of people you’ve never met is beyond courageous… it’s Christlike.
As we head home from Israel on this Memorial Day, I’m so very thankful for those men and women who make and have made that selfless choice, and I’m beyond grateful for Jesus and the ultimate sacrifice He made on the cross so I can live in freedom here on earth. Appropriately, we ended our trip to the Holy land yesterday with a visit to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus agonized with the Father over this sacrifice that lay ahead of Him.
As we walked to the Garden, we traveled through the Kidron Valley with the Mount of Olives on our left and the Temple grounds on our right. It was incredible to imagine the disciples and Jesus walking this path 2000 years ago after the Passover supper as Jesus tried to prepare them for what was about to happen.
As He and His disciples walked to Gethsemane, Jesus used the imagery of a vine and branches and spoke of the importance of remaining close to Him. He spoke of His amazing love for each of His followers and encouraged them to love one another the same. And He spoke of the Counselor to come, the Spirit that would guide them into all truth. (John 15-16). And then, Jesus said a beautiful prayer of protection over His people (John 17).
Here is a picture of the Kidron Valley with the Mount of Olives on the left:
As we entered Gethsemane, I was first struck by the enormity of the trunks of the trees. Our guide told us they dated back 2000 to 2500 years ago. We were able to sit in the Garden and reflect on the night Jesus cried out, “Abba, Father, if you are willing take this cup from me. Nevertheless, not My will but yours be done.” (Matt. 26:39, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42).
As we listened to the Scripture, I imagined Peter, James, and John reclining against one of the trunks desperately trying to stay awake as Jesus instructed them to do, but falling asleep instead. I imagined the stress Jesus’ human body was under as He prayed and sweated drops of blood at the thought of being separated from His Father. And I imagined Judas Iscariot and the soldiers walking into the Garden to arrest Jesus.
The Scriptures came alive to me here like never before.
Below are some pictures of the Garden. In the last picture, you can see the now sealed off Eastern gates in the distance where Jesus would have walked through as our Passover Lamb – you can also see the Dome of the Rock where the Temple would have stood. (Side note: the Temple was actually 2 1/2 times the size of the dome so it would have towered over the Temple walls).
After Gethsemane, we had the incredible privilege of going to a worship service at King of Kings Community Jerusalem. This congregation was planted 15 years ago with only 17 members. Today, they have grown to a congregation of over 1000, including Messianic Jews, Arab Christians, and Christians. It was amazing to stand among such a diverse group of people and worship as one.
The sermon entitled “Love Gave” followed the theme of sacrifice. The pastor spoke of how we serve a God whose motive for anything He does is based on nothing but love, and he spoke of how this merciful God is a God of second (and third, and fourth) chances. I’m more thankful than ever for His love and mercy today.
So, as I head home, I’m super reflective on my own personal journey with Jesus. I know I want, more than ever, more of Him and less of me. I want to walk each day, each minute, in relation with Him. And I desperately want to reflect His sacrificial, selfless love.
I’ve been educated, and now know, more than ever, the importance of praying for the Messianic Jews who, as a result of choosing Christ as Messiah, are being isolated and discriminated against around the world. We, as a family of faith, must pray for our brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, and we must pray for His chosen people, the Jewish nation.
One day we will all be back to Holy land, and what a glorious day it will be! Yes, one day we will all see the new heaven and the new earth and the new Jerusalem! And, we will worship the One True God as one Holy nation! How incredible will that be?!
“Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His peoples and God Himself will be with them and will be their God. …. He who testifies about these things says, ‘Yes! I am coming soon.’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 21:3; 22:20)