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Friday, January 4, 2008

Gethsemane; the place of prayer and betrayal

By Stan Wilson

Special to ASSIST News Service

The Church of All Nations was built from 1919 to 1924 and is located within the Gethsemane complex. Preserved inside is the "Rock of the Agony;" said to be the rock upon which Christ knelt in prayer. The name of this basilica is derived from the contributions by different nations.

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (ANS) -- Visiting Gethsemane leaves you totally speechless when you realize that you are walking among the olive trees that may have been silent witness to Christ's betrayal. The site is beautifully preserved with gravel trails where you can almost feel the presence of our Lord and Savior. Visions from the Gethsemane scene of "The Passion of the Christ" flashed wildly through my mind as I stood in awe. Yes, Gethsemane is one of the sites in Israel that may very well be just like it was when Jesus visited it. It was there that Christ went to pray after eating the Last Supper with his disciples.

Gethsemane actually means Olive Oil Press. It is a natural grotto of olive trees at the foot of the Mount of Olives, just outside the walls of old Jerusalem. Today, Gethsemane is divided into two main parts. The Garden of Olives includes eight of the giant trees are held by tradition to have been present when Judas gave his infamous kiss to Chris. The Basilica of the Agony was built to recall how Jesus agonized over us to the point of sweating blood.

Two basilicas were previously built on this site and later destroyed. The Byzantine Basilica was constructed around 380 A.D., but was destroyed in 614 A.D. The Crusader Basilica was built in the 12th century, but it was destroyed around 1200 A.D. The present Basilica was begun in 1919 and completed in 1924. It is most commonly referred to as the Church of All Nations because of the contributions offered by different nations including Australia, Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Italy, France, Spain, England, Belgium, Canada, Germany and the United States. Preserved inside the Basilica is the "Rock of the Agony." The rock, said to be the rock upon which Christ knelt in prayer, is entirely surrounded by a crown of thorns in wrought iron. In the apses there are several mosaics representing Christ in Agony being consoled by an Angel, The Kiss of Judas and The Arrest of Jesus.

This giant olive tree is one of eight held by tradition to have been a silent witness to Christ's betrayal. It is actually difficult to age olive trees, but since olive trees grow from the roots of others, this tree's parent was most certainly there.

Luke 22: 39-51: Then, accompanied by the disciples, he left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. There he told them, "Pray God that you will not be overcome by temptation." He walked away, perhaps a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed this prayer: "Father, if you are willing, please take away this cup of horror from me. But I want your will, not mine." Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him, for he was in such agony of spirit that he broke into a sweat of blood, with great drops falling to the ground as he prayed more and more earnestly. At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples-only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. "Asleep!" he said. "Get up! Pray God that you will not fall when you are tempted." But even as he said this, a mob approached, led by Judas, one of his twelve disciples. Judas walked over to Jesus and kissed him on the cheek in friendly greeting. But Jesus said, "Judas, how can you do this-betray the Messiah with a kiss?" When the other disciples saw w hat was about to happen, they exclaimed, "Master, shall we fight? We brought along the swords!" And one of them slashed at the High Priest's servant and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, "Don't resist any more." Ane he touched the place where the man's ear had been and restored it.

Yes, I was there, and I will never be the same.

For further information about Israel and tour information, I suggest that you visit This is the official website of the Israel Ministry of Tourism. They offer several "virtual tours" online and you can get complete information and find links to help you make your plans. You can actually spend days just navigating the website in preparation for your "trip of a lifetime." Yes, I'll go back.and take my wife. Tours are much less expensive that I had thought. One of the tourism magazines that we received featured several all-inclusive tours including airfare from New York for $1200 to $1500. Of course, putting together a tour with members of your church would just be the icing on the cake. Shalom!

Stan Wilson is a lifetime journalist after graduating from college in 1970 with
a B.A. in journalism. He worked in various positions in newspapers in Texas,
Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas prior to starting Southwest Kansas Faith and
Family in 2001. Faith and Family is a monthly Christian newspaper serving Dodge
City, Garden City and 18 other surrounding communities. He can be contacted by
email at

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