As darkness deepened in the valley, a small group descends from the city into a well known grove of olive trees. As most of the group stops, four of them continue a short ways on alone. Then a solitary figure walks on to a rock outcropping and falls forward in prayer. This is the moment of decision, and in this moment, we see the true depth of love.
The Garden of Gethsemane stands a few hundred yards from the eastern gate of the Old City of Jerusalem, which is now called St. Stephen’s Gate. It is here that Jesus asked His Father if there was another way, any way, other than the agony of the Passion. Yet in this moment we see Jesus’ resolve to do the will of His Father, for in the same breath He says, “not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39). This is the place of complete surrender. Jesus, who is both fully God and fully man, shows us both His humanity in His desire to escape the agony and death that awaits Him and His divinity which is completely in line with the will of God. The Cross was not something forced upon Christ from a harsh and judging God. The Cross is God coming down and choosing to place Himself on the Cross for us. By entering into the depths of our humanity, God frees us for new life in and through Him. The only explanation for this is complete and utter love, the love of God for us.
Such a love asks us if we are willing to respond. When someone does a loving act for us, the only appropriate response is an act of love in return. Anything less is hollow and demonstrates selfishness on our part. But a loving act in return, an act of reciprocating love, shows our desire to truly be united with the one who loves us. Gethsemane is for us also a place of decision, a place where a choice is made. Jesus loved His Father and us with everything He had, to the end. Will we love Him with the same love, with everything we have, to the end?