For several decades, I’ve had one spot in our home where I pray. It’s not a place set apart situated away from everyone–not a separate sanctuary. This room is in the middle of the house, where we gather for family celebrations. Yet, it is a place that has become holy to me because that is where I go each day to meet the Lord.
When we have overnight guests and they come into this room before I arrive in the morning, I miss my Holy Place. Naturally, it’s not a problem to go back to the bedroom and pray; even though it is somehow not the same. Putting a bit of guilt on myself, I sometimes feel as though the place should not mean as much to me as it does. Then a few months ago, I heard Dr. Charles Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, speaking about his holy place. He believed that the places where we regularly meet the Lord become hallowed ground.
His logic makes sense to me. Of course, God resides in all the earth and all places are his creation. However, the place where I go to meet the Lord has great significant to me. I’ve experienced the holiness of God there more times than I can remember.
In John 18 verses 1-3 (NCV), we read,
When Jesus finished praying, he went with his followers across the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and Jesus and his followers went into it.
Judas knew where this place was, because Jesus met there often with his followers. Judas was the one who turned against Jesus. So Judas came there with a group of soldiers and some guards from the leading priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns, and weapons.
On that first Maundy Thursday, Jesus and the Eleven went to the garden to pray. Note that the passage says, “Judas knew where this place was, because Jesus met there often with his followers. ” This was a place where Jesus loved to pray. He and his Father met there often for conversation and intimacy. This holy place was where Judas came because he understood that Jesus would take his friends there after the Seder meal.
This week as I read this scripture preparing myself for Holy Week, I was struck by the horror that Judas imposed on the Lord. Only a close, personal friend can expose the deep reservoirs of our hearts. The garden was a secret place that perhaps only the 13 men knew. Down through the ages, the Church has dwelt on the kiss–the method of betrayal. However, perhaps the place of the betrayal is equally horrible and ironic.
Soldiers, Temple guards, and Pharisees armed with weapons and carrying lanterns and torches trampled into the garden. These interlopers violated this most sacred ground where the Godhead met to commune in joyful love or deep sorrow.
As I prepare my heart for Resurrection Sunday, I understand the betrayal of a trusted friend. I know how gossip and hearsay can cut like a knife. Most people do. However, when God allows the holy places in our lives to be trampled by the enemy of our souls, those are the times that our hearts may cry in unbelief, even questioning His faithfulness. Yet, in the presence of the empty tomb, God’s redemption erases our doubts, unbelief and questions.
When have you seen God turn great sorrow into eternal joy in your life? If you are still walking under the shadow of betrayal, can you see God’s redemptive hand in your situation?