Monday, February 23, 2015
IF TREES COULD TALK
2,000 YEAR OLD OLIVE TREE, GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE, ISRAEL
If I got nothing else out of a trip to the Holy Land in Israel, my narrow view of the landscape as rocks and desert was changed. As we drove through the northern areas and along the Jordan River Valley in the Galilee region there were endless orchards and grain fields. Colorful green and yellow Banana fields were plentiful. The orchards we passed were ripe with oranges, lemons, dates, almonds and olives. We learned that olive trees can live indefinitely as the old wood is pruned back and new growth continues to nourish the harvest. The olive branches are turned into beautiful wood carvings with distinctive wood grains that randomly reveal pieces that are as unique as snowflakes.
The olive trees have been an integral part of the landscape since ancient times and dominate the Garden of Gethsemane which lies in the Kidron Valley between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. Jewish tombstones lie throughout the valley since the Jewish people believe this is where the final judgment will take place. Gethsemane means “olive press” in Hebrew which would be expected amid an orchard of olive trees. Olive trees in this garden have been carbon dated to over 2,000 years old, which means they were alive when Jesus and his disciples found solace in this place. It was here that Judas betrayed Jesus before he was led off for trial and crucifixion. Judas was expecting a warrior king that would lead the Jewish people in overthrowing their Roman oppressors, not a peaceful savior for all mankind.
These olive trees were witness to the agony of Christ in the moonlight of his final hours of abandonment and isolation. It was here that he prayed so fervently to his Abba that he sweat beads of blood. The stone that received these drops of blood is enshrined inside the Basilica of Gethsemane for pilgrims to lightly touch and ponder His sacrifice. Coming to grips with the surreal inevitability of these final hours and subsequent trials must have been excruciating. But he is resigned not to his will, but His Father’s will. He knows that His hour has come in this place and the destiny of all mankind awaits.
If only these trees could talk.