“Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples.” (John 18:2)
The familiar is usually our happy place!
Although many of us crave adventure, there is something unparalleled about the familiar. That regular spot, the known path, the unsurprising way. It’s all very safe, easy to navigate, comfortable, secure.
Surprisingly, Jesus was arrested in one of his safe havens, one which “was his custom” (Luke 22:39). Jesus often slipped away from noisy, chaotic Jerusalem to the refuge of this garden on the Mount of Olives just across the Kidron Valley. Here he must have recuperated from the demands of rugged travel and draining conversations in order to deepen his relationships with those twelve men he had called to follow him.
Perhaps this familiar place was where Jesus experienced the rest we learn about in Psalm 23 – “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Jesus had explained once that “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). It may be that in times before he had rested a while here to restore his soul.
Eleven men would have followed him into the garden that night and fallen asleep nearby while he wrestled and prayed for the bitter cup to be taken from him. Gardens usually represent life, growth, and beauty, but for Christ this one became “the valley of the shadow of death.” Right there in that familiar place “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
As Judas brought along “a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests” carrying “lanterns and torches and weapons” (Luke 18:3), the sleepy men would have watched the twelfth one betray the Son of God. Judas also brought his deceptive heart and gave away the Lord with a kiss.
At times our familiar places are where we are hurt deeply. The home that should be a sanctuary turns into a battlefield. The marriage that should be a safe shelter becomes a raging cyclone. The parent that should protect and defend unleashes ugly hatred and anger. The familiar turn out to be a danger zone.
It was the same for Christ that night in the garden, and thus he identifies with our plight. Far more significantly, he promises to be our safe place, our refuge and strength, our very present help in trouble.
The resurrection is his guarantee that we can always trust him.
Elizabeth Ann Mitchell
Photo Credit: J Lee on Unsplash