"Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane" (Matt. 26:36)
The account of Jesus's anguished prayer and then arrest in that fateful hour in Gethsemane is one of the few accounts given by all four of the Gospel writers. Reading it today, I was again made aware of the particularity of Scripture, giving us place, perspective, and personality when a religion need not have done so, when a tidy account would have matched up, eliminated "surplusage," and stuck to the "important" facts, giving us abstractions rather than specifics, "flat" characters on which to hang dogma rather than the "round" personalities we find stating odd and seemingly useless details. It tells me that while Scripture is God-inspired and super-intended (overseen by God), it retains personalities and perspectives, and roots its tale in particular people and places.
They were in a place, Gethsemane, says Matthew and Mark. Or was it, as Luke said, the Mount of Olives? Or did they, as John records, simply cross the Kidron Valley and go to an olive grove on the other side? Why tell us this at all, and if it is to be told, why not get the story straight?
The naming of the place roots the story in time and space. It is a real place. It has a name. That there are three different names for it reminds us that human beings with unique personalities and perspectives are telling the story. Each was there. They were all together. And yet, as is so often the case, each sees things a little differently, emphasizes different things. They are all correct. Gethsemane was at the foot of the Mount of Olives. It was an olive grove just the other side of the Kidron Valley, which separated the Temple Mount from (you guessed it) the Mount of Olives. There is a richness and a reality to the story that we would not otherwise have if this were not the case.
There's more. We know that the Chief Priest's servant's ear was cut off by someone who was with Jesus. Matthew and Mark simply say it was "one of Jesus's companions," as does Luke. John names names: it was Simon Peter. Luke (perhaps because he was a physician?) is the only one to give account of the healing of the ear. Perspective. Personality. Individuals seeing certain things, emphasizing certain things.
Luke saw an angel minister to Jesus. No one else did. Luke saw sweat dripping like blood from Jesus. No one else did, or at least they don't mention it. Was Luke awake longer than the others? John emphasizes how the mob out to get Jesus "fell down" when he identified himself by saying simply "I am he." Why? No one else does. And Mark seems to think it important to tell us that one follower in only a linen robe was seized and got away, naked, leaving his robe behind. Why do I need to know that? It's simply a particular fact that makes this account all the more believable.
No one edited this. No one smoothed the corners. This is God's story, filled with messy reality, with real people with their own perspectives, set in places with names, where even unknown and unnamed fleeing naked men rate a mention. It's like what I hear in the courtroom from witnesses. It's real. Only this time it's all true.