“When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples.” (Jn 18:1-3)
Jesus finishes the “High Priestly Prayer” and then goes to a garden. We know from the other gospels that Jesus also prayed here. Evidently, the disciples often met in this garden where they would pray together and receive instruction from Jesus.
I’m always struck by aesthetics. It is more than that I just like art, landscaping, and architecture. People do this whether or not the realize it. I’m struck here that Jesus seems to take care as to the setting in which he will instruct. He goes to a garden. You can still visit this garden, you yourself can walk across the Kidron and up the Mount of Olives to this peaceful setting amongst an olive grove. It will get your heart pumping. A rather steep climb as I remember it. Here Jesus sets the mood for his instruction, and then he sets the mood for his betrayal. He finds this important.
It is this that sometimes bothers me most about modern society. Too often it seems we have forgotten the importance of aesthetics. It is still there. But we try not to care these days. There is a utilitarianism that has infected society that down plays aesthetics. But it is precisely the appreciation of aesthetics that makes us human. I mean, certainly the fauna, the animals enhance the aesthetics of a place, whether it be a Condor spreading it’s massive wings over the grand canyon, or a humming bird flittering from flower to flower in a backyard garden, a wild horse standing tall in desert sage, or an Irish Setter warming it’s master’s feet next to a fireplace. However, I don’t get the sense that these animals, however much they might add to the aesthetics of an environment, have any appreciation for the aesthetics of the place. But man is artist, it is perhaps a shadow of the image that was lost in the Garden of Eden. But yet it remains as part of what it means to be man, it is something we share with our creator. God the creator, created a piece of art to be enjoyed in the details as much as in the full picture. And then he created man to enjoy it, and participate in it, and not just to participate in it as the animals do, mindlessly as ornaments though we are also ornaments in his garden beautiful in his sight. No, this is why he gives man dominion over the earth, that they would feel free to move this tree there, this flower here, that animal to this area. He meant for us rearrange his creation and paint over the canvas with our own creations. It is for this reason that some of the best theologians are artists, and the best artists are theologians. And no matter how hard I contemplate the appreciation of beauty, I cannot understand why it is I appreciate it, but that the God who created me, created me to appreciate it. And then I think, the beauty of this world is but a foreshadow of the beauty to come. But first God must prepare me for that beauty, and so he comes to this garden, where he would instruct his disciples one last time.
He met there often and Judas knew where it was, he knew to look for him there. Jesus doesn’t run, but he sets the mood for his betrayal. It was in a garden that man first betrayed God. It is now in a Garden that the Son of Man will be betrayed, but in his betrayal man will find his restoration. It is grotesque and sublime at the same time. Jesus the God/man betrayed by man in a Garden, that not only would man be restored by the shedding of his blood, but the Garden once destroyed by the betrayal of man, would once again be restored with the restoration of man.