This olive tree is in this picture is in the Garden. From the Garden, you can look down across the Kedron Valley and see the old walled city of Jerusalem. On the other side of the Mount of Olives (now separated by the WALL) is the city of Bethany. Jesus wept in Bethany over the death of his friend Lazarus. Near the Garden of Gethsemane is the Dominus Flavit Chapel built in the shape of a tear drop. It was here that Jesus also wept. He wept because Jerusalem did not know the God of Peace.
Israel still does not know the God of Peace. Decades of conflict have led to the shedding of much bloodâ€”Israeli and Palestinian. The cycle of violence to this day spirals down and down. Suffering, pain, and death are very much a part of life in Israel and in the occupied territories of Palestine. Jesus is still weeping over Jerusalem.
During this Holy Week, I can see Jesus praying for deliverance in the Garden. It is night. He has dined at table with his disciples including the one who would betray him. [I stood in the Upper Room and read the account of the Eucharist from Markâ€™s Gospel. The Upper Room was the scene of the Last Supper, the post-resurrection appearances, and Pentecost.]
Jesus looks up. He sees the City of Jerusalem lit up with torches. He can probably hear the voices of Passover celebration echoing across the valley. As he looks toward the gate, he sees a torchlight procession. The crown is on the way. Judas is leading them to their prey.
How intense his agony must have been. We are told that he was sweating so profusely that it was as if he were bleeding. The sweat poured forth from his pores. He knew what was coming.
He had dared to challenge the empire. In mockery of the Caesars, he had ridden into Jerusalem on a donkeyâ€”a nonviolent parody of the triumphant militaristic rulers. He has signed his death warrant when he raised Lazarus from the dead over the hill in Bethany. He was becoming way too popular for the Romans and for the priestly leaders. The Judeans wanted this despised Galilean out of the way. He was challenging their empty rituals and purity codes. He was healing the sick and liberating the oppressed people. He was dangerous and had to be killed.
The crowd arrives. Judas betrays him with a kiss. Peter springs into action and cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Jesus, the nonviolent one, healed the ear and disarmed Peter and every Christian thereafter. â€œPut away your sword.â€
Jesus knew the God of Peaceâ€”Abba God. He was obedient unto death even death on the cross. He wanted to teach us that the cross is the way to life. Nonviolent suffering in the face of evil is the way up and the way out of the cycle of violence. He resisted empire and the Judeans nonviolently and thus prepared us for the struggle with injustice.
Jesus is calling us to watch and pray with him. He is calling us to weep because we have failed to imitate him. Theresa reminds us that we are the eyes, the ears, the hands, and the feet of Jesus today. We have fallen asleep while he is praying for deliverance from violence. He is calling us to work to restore justiceâ€”right order, right relationships with God and one another. He is calling us to nonviolent resistance to the evils of empire and religion. He is calling us to work for the peace of Jerusalem.
Jesus is calling us to life and life in abundance. He is calling us to work for an end to the violence of war, abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, ethnic cleansing, demolished homes, uprooted olive trees, desecration of our earth, and the exploitation of the least among us. Jesus is calling us to life through nonviolent resistance to evil/ We are to resist anything that demeans life, anything that prevents people from having life and having it in abundance.