My favorite place in Memphis, TN, where I live, is a large park in the middle of the metroplex called Shelby Farms. Once a penal farm where the detainees would produce their own food (hence the name), now this 4000-acre park is home to fields, trails, lakes, a river to canoe, a state-of-the-art playground, equestrian area, dog park, disc golf course, community gardens, agricultural land, and natural woodlands. There is more than enough room for one to get lost from the cares and concerns of life and be distracted by the beauty and order of nature. This is why I love Shelby Farms most. A hike in the woods is the best therapy I know. What a great way to get away from the stress of a week of work or to blow off the steam that comes from parenting adolescents. This is my special place, because it is a getaway.
John tells us today that Jesus also had a special place:
With these words, Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley to a place where there was a garden. He and his disciples went in. Judas, his betrayer, knew the place, because Jesus often used it as a meeting place with his disciples. (18:1-2)
Maybe it was just a meeting place. Or maybe it was Jesus’ meeting place because this was a that place Jesus liked to be. We know Jesus would often withdraw from the masses for times of prayer and meditation. We know Jesus would often go to mountainsides and wilderness places at these times. I think it is possible that this was that sort of place for Jesus. What a logical place to go on this night.
Here is the kicker. Jesus’ special place is the very place where he will be betrayed, where he will pray with desperation to not drink the cup of God’s wrath, where he will sweat drops of blood. This is the place where Jesus’ will last experience freedom. Even more startling is that Jesus knew all of this about his garden, long before it ever happened:
Jesus knew everything that was going to happen to him. (18:4a)
Jesus’ special place was the very place he would be betrayed. Jesus has made regular pilgrimages to the very spot where everything will begin to be unraveled for him. This is anything but a getaway. Jesus wasn’t escaping the reality of life; he was immersing himself in it. He was reminding himself of how this is supposed to end. How amazing!