In the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives, I met a 2000 year old olive tree who told a story silently to my spirit the moment I touched it. It spoke of the night that changed its life when it met the Olive of Life:
“Once upon a time, about 2000 years ago, I met the Olive of Life. Back then, this whole mountain was covered with vegetation. I was just a young tree, a sapling among the strong and wise in a land of milk and honey. Here, I dreamed of growing solid and mighty . I dreamed of glory. I prayed that when I grew up, people would seek after me for the purest of oil from the finest olives of my branches. All my time and energy was focused on becoming a great olive tree.
“Then, one late night, I heard a noise like none I’ve known. It didn’t sound like a beast or the wind but it terrified & saddened me all at once. I looked for the source but could not see anything. How does one describe such a sound? There really are no words but it made my little branches shudder, my bark shiver and my core burn. It came in waves of echos, sometimes soft, and sometimes, it felt so loud it unsettled the dirt down to my roots. On and on it continued until, finally, silence.
“I had hoped to never hear such a sound again…as long as I lived. But it returned only this time, closer (and louder). I tried to lean to the left and the right to see what it was. I stretched high but was too short to see past taller trees. That’s when I realized I wasn’t alone. I had forgotten about the others simply because our only response was…silence.
“So we stood in silence, listening to a noise that caused our entire beings to suffer. We listened until our leaves started to droop and our branches sagged with the weight of weariness. Surely, such a sound is an announcement of pending death? No…it was more than that. Death seemed more inviting than the anguish of this sound: death was quiet and peaceful.
“Just when I thought I couldn’t bear the mystery or the torment any longer, the sound ceased. I stood alert, waiting. There was a long pause and numbing stillness in the air. Then I saw movement in the shadows and heard the sound of leaves shifting on the ground. I was so afraid. What could it be? Surely something that sounded so horrible was a monster…
“But no. A man emerged from the dark. He stumbled towards me. He was so weak He could barely stand. He fell to His knees near me and then…the sound! Oh, how it hollows your soul! I had never heard nor have I heard anything like it since. But as I saw His trunk heave to the ground and His branches twist around Him, I knew He was wailing in pain.
“From the inside out, He howled in grief: silencing the entire mountain. It was torment to hear. Even worse to watch. But as horrible as it was, I was no longer afraid. When His face finally turned towards me, I knew this man was very special. Deep within me, I knew I knew Him. I straightened and raised high every branch and every leaf because I knew He was worthy. And I knew I loved Him. And I longed to help Him. But how could I help?
“He struggled to stand upright and would fall on my brothers and sisters. They too were eager to stand strong for Him. Oh, how I wished I could be the one He could lean on! But I was not tall or sturdy enough yet. And I knew if He did lean on me, I would fall. But I didn’t care. I felt like one touch from Him, in anguish or in joy, would have been enough to sustain me for the rest of life.
“His sounds continued. His face wet. The chill of the night gathered and formed dew on my trunk and branches. I felt helpless to support Him but I could join Him. I didn’t get to be the one to hold Him or cover Him, but I longed to weep for Him and with Him. And I did. I willed the dew to fall from me as I shivered. And soon…we all wept. We shared His agony and stood near by in the long dark hours of the night. We offered all we had for His use and comfort. But He took little.
“When His inaudible sounds finally slowed and then stilled, I saw Him look up. He spoke clearly so I understood finally. With surety and courage he said, ‘…not my will but Yours be done.‘
“Then, (I will never forget), He looked at me with eyes that pierced through darkness. He seemed calm. Resolved. And with a strength I marvelled at, He stood up and touched me. I have never felt a touch that sparked such energy and awe before or since. I felt so alive! Under such power, I felt compelled to bow. And as I did, He wiped the dew drops away and smiled a thank you.
“And then He was gone.
“I haven’t seen Him since but I sense He is always around. I consider it an honor and a burden to have heard His cry and be there with Him in His greatest hour of anguish and need. The burden of His pain is unshakable but the power of one touch from His hand changed my destiny.
“You see, I once dreamed only of producing the finest olives, but as you can see, no one is interested in my olives. They are far more interested in the One who touched me over 2000 years ago.
“Do I grieve the loss of my dream? Not really. He helped me find a greater one. You see my friend, many know the story and celebrate Him on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But few celebrate the night He made His choice. Few celebrate what has been my privilege to witness and share: the resolve of a man in love to face all of hell just to rescue the one He loves.
“It was here, in the garden named ‘Oil Press’ (Gethsemane) that the true Olive of Life was pressed for the purest oil. It was here, after much travaling in the dark before the dawn, that the Son of Man chose to be the Savior of man.”
The old olive tree finished his story and towered humbly and beautifully above me.
Oh…what it must have seen and heard! With tears in my eyes, I agreed: one touch from Him is all it takes. One glimpse into His passion for you and me is all it takes to change our destiny.
Tonight…in the late, dark hours that precede Good Friday, I can’t help but see what the olive tree saw: a picture of anguish and hope just outside the gates of Jerusalem. And I can’t help but bow low as Grace touchd me. Because of Him my life will never be the same.
I am so thankful…how about you?