We spent time in the Garden of Gethsemane. For us this morning it was a sunny day, and the time flew by. For Jesus, it was a long, dark night. A large grove of olive trees set the scene for the betrayal. It was hours from His ultimate sacrifice. It was the place where Jesus spent his last night in prayer. It was the place where certain disciples were unable to keep their eyes open to join Jesus in prayer during His hour of need.
I sat on a rock in a corner of the Gethsemane that still exists today – that hasn’t been memorialized by a church, cleared for a road, or excavated for ruins. Olive trees several hundred, perhaps even one thousand years old, surround me. The only estimated 2000 year old olive tree is in a church courtyard across the street. I wish I could listen to stories told by that tree, if only it had a mouth.
Where I sat, a dried olive lay at my feet. I picked it up, rolling the hard, wrinkled olive between my thumb and forefinger. This particular olive grew. It fell. But it dried up and lay wasted in this hot sun. This olive was not used, and perhaps was not chosen.
God, use me. Ripen me. Pick me up when I fall. I don’t want to become hardened; please use me.
It is, I confess, a very dangerous prayer to be “used” for God’s glory. When olives are chosen and picked and used, they are then pressed, squeezed, and consumed. Olives are not picked and chosen to be placed on a shelf for memorializing, revering, or observing. I have seen firsthand on this trip the size and weight of the enormous millstones used to squeeze out every drop of usefulness from an olive.
As Jesus prayed in this garden, He felt the impending weight of a figurative millstone – the sins of the world – that would press down on Him, squeezing every ounce of life from Him. Jesus was picked. Jesus was chosen. Jesus was used to the point of death.
It is no wonder that the Son of Man prayed in deep anguish. “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as you will.” What a courageously dangerous prayer!
As weary as I am from walking where Jesus walked, I am reminded that I am called to a more challenging task: to walk as Jesus walked. If you plan to someday walk here WHERE Jesus walked, spend a little time on a treadmill at the gym before you book your flight, and buy comfortable shoes. But, if you plan to walk AS Jesus walked – “used” in order to glorify the Father – know that it will squeeze you.
Courageously pray a dangerous prayer.