Reading Time: 7 Minutes
John 18.1-2 – After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples.
Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.
4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?”
5 They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.
6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.”
10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.
11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
What’s wrong with this picture?
What is wrong with what took place in the garden? Everything! That is, everything except Jesus’ actions.
People were in the obvious presence of God, as was evidenced by their falling to the ground. Yet, their hearts were so hard that they proceeded to arrest the most innocent person to walk the face of the earth.
What we are going to study over the next two chapters of John’s Gospel describe God’s solution to the sin problem of the world. If God’s solution is so extreme, then our problem is equally extreme. All of us, like the mob in the garden, have experiences where our behavior was ungodly, blind and full of self-will.
Praise God. Jesus died on the cross to solve the sin problem of the soldiers, police, religious authorities, and disciples who were all in the garden. Praise God, he did that for us, too.
Jesus displayed the love of God for a broken humanity with his death on the cross. God continues to reach out to a world that is full of self-will, self-seeking, self-pleasure, self, self and more of self. I want us to turn to another garden experience to demonstrate God’s immense love for people like you and me.
Another Garden Experience of God’s Mercy
This story of another garden experience was written by the North Carolina Baptist press.
Two years ago Fred Lunsford had a unique experience in prayer. The 95-year-old World War II veteran and longtime North Carolina pastor said God gave him a “tremendous burden” to call others to pray for spiritual awakening in America. Now, that call to prayer has become a nationally recognized event on May 5.
Lunsford often goes to a prayer garden near his home in Marble, N.C., to spend time with God. On a summer day two years ago, Lunsford said he looked in the direction of nearby Buckhorn Gap and had an unusual experience.
“I saw Jesus standing in that gap,” he said. “Just then I saw a thundercloud come up behind Him and start rolling over the mountain. And then I heard thunder roll and lightning began to flash.”
Lunsford began praying. He referenced the fact that his wife, Gladys, died in 2014. “I think it’s just time to take me home,” he prayed. “I’m ready to go.”
God said “not yet,” according to Lunsford, but he didn’t know why.
“I kept going back every day for maybe three weeks or a month before one day He answered me.” said Lunsford. “He said, ‘Not yet, because I’ve got some unfinished business that you need to take care of.’”
Lunsford said the task he believes God laid before him was to celebrate his 70-year anniversary in the ministry and call people to pray for spiritual awakening.
God told him, “I want to send renewal,” Lunsford said. “I want to send a new work among you.”
A group of North Carolina ministry leaders who visited Lunsford earlier this year were inspired to support the call to prayer. The group included Mud Creek’s pastor Greg Mathis, David Horton, president of Fruitland Baptist Bible College, and others.
Mathis said in a statement on Mud Creek’s website that the group prayed with Lunsford and had their own unique experience.
“Heaven came down and the area in which we were praying could barely contain us,” Mathis said.
That meeting led to an effort to gather 100 pastors – and then 200 – in an event called “Praying on the Mountain,” scheduled for May 5. When it became clear that COVID-19 restrictions prevented the group from gathering in person, they shifted focus toward calling Christians to pray where they are.
As of May 1, at least 3,300 individuals have signed up to represent around 124,000 people from churches, Bible study groups, families, universities and businesses who plan to participate in the prayer emphasis, according to Mud Creek. (Note, as of May 4, the number is 180,000 participants.)
“It’s amazing, and I really thank God from the depths of my heart,” Lunsford told Baptist Press. “We know that we need spiritual awakening, we know we need the healing of our land. I am so in awe about it and at the same time, I’m thankful and grateful for all the people involved. It’s beyond my words to describe.”
Calling Maywood People to Pray
Baptist leaders across the country have called for today to be a day of prayer, let’s join them and be part of the multitude before the throne of God today, praying for God’s awakening and renewal in our country and in the world.
Second Chronicles 7.14 is an important passage to consider as we pray. Again, let’s be part of this prayer effort.
2 Chronicles 7.13-14 – When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Thank you, God, that you are calling for nationwide repentance and renewal. Please help us all respond to you and to turn from our evil ways. May we fully embrace Jesus and live aligned with you will. Thank you for your abundant grace that permits us an opportunity to return to you.