24 April 2005

Gethsemane and the olive press

An olive press circa time of Jesus

Gethsemane was the garden where Jesus often went alone or with His disciples for prayer, rest, or fellowship, and the site where He was betrayed by Judas on the night before His crucifixion (Luke 21:37; John 18:1-2). It was situated on the Mount of Olives just east of Jerusalem (walking distance), across the Kidron Valley and opposite the Temple (Mark 13:3; John 18:1). From its name scholars conclude that the garden was situated in an olive grove that contained an olive press. Attempts to locate the exact site of the garden have been unsuccessful, but many Christians have agreed on one site-the place which Constantine's mother Helena designated about A.D. 325 AD - Rose and I have sat near large and old (perhaps from the time of Jesus) olive trees in that place. The gospel accounts do not provide enough details to show the exact site of the garden. Actually Helena seems to have been responsible for a number of sites now accepted as the genuine place … but I have my doubts about some of them!

The four gospel writers focus attention on Jesus' final visit to Gethsemane just before His arrest and crucifixion. After the Last Supper, Jesus returned there with His disciples for final instructions and a period of soul-searching prayer. All the disciples were instructed; but only Peter, James and John went to Gethsemane with Jesus to pray (Mark 14:26-32). Jesus urged them to stand watch while He prayed. Then He pleaded with God to deliver Him from the coming events (Mark 14:32-42). But His prayer was no arrogant attempt to resist God's will or even to change God's plan. His pleas clearly acknowledged His obedience to the will of the Father: "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it, Your will be done" (Matt 26:42).

We learn something important from a study of Gethsemane. Jesus, no less than His disciples then and since, faced the temptation of Satan. He "was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 4:15). No wonder He cried, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death" (Matt 26:38). But He won the victory over Satan as He declared to His Father, "Your will be done."

Because Jesus has faced such powerful temptation Himself, we can relate to Him as a personal Lord and Saviour. "For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).

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