A year ago, I visited the Holy Land and it transformed my whole perception of the Bible. Exotic-sounding names I knew from the Old and New Testaments were suddenly real places.
The Garden of Gethsemane, for example, wasn’t the English country garden I’d imagined – it’s a quiet place on the side of a hill, full of olive trees, facing Jerusalem across a rocky valley.
And, standing amongst the olive trees, I suddenly understood Jesus’s experience on the night before his death more deeply. The geography told me he made a real choice; he easily had the time to head back up the hill, away from Jerusalem and back to safety. But, as scared as he was, he chose to stay there, in that landscape, facing Jerusalem, where he knew trial and execution awaited him.
The place is real. Historical documents show that the man Jesus was real. The choices he made were real. It’s up to us to decide – especially at Easter – whether we believe he made those choices in that place for us. Because if he did, it changes everything. If it’s real, we surely have no choice but to respond to Jesus who, in that dark and lonely olive grove, revealed the Father’s love for us.
Rev Abby Rhodes