36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38 Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” 39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” 40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;[a]the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
We understand from the scriptures that Gethsemane was located close to Jerusalem where Jesus went to pray before He was betrayed by one of his disciples; Judas Iscariot. He was in agony, physically and emotionally, as the sins of the world began to be placed on His shoulders. He began to sweat blood and He began to experience the separation from the Father that sin inevitably brings.
The Bible says in John 3 v 16 that he did this, because “God SO loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, so that all who believe on Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
The word Gethsemane is very significant. It comes from the Hebrew, Gath Shemen, which means an olive press. It is fascinating that this garden today has been preserved as an olive garden and in fact the surrounding hills are also covered with them. It is important to note that an olive press from the Second Temple period was found nearby, in the cave of the traditional site of the Tomb of Mary.
It is possible to graft olive trees in two different ways, both from the root and from the branch. One is called Netzeret (Nazareth – He shall be called a Nazarene) and the other is Gezer. There are numerous scripture references connecting both Jesus to the olive branch and in addition it is a picture of Israel as a nation. Olive oil is also connected to the Holy Spirit, if we think of the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins (Matthew 25), as well as being the branch that the dove returned with as the flood waters began to recede as Noah and his family were on the ark. (Genesis 8)
Something that is also fascinating about the olive tree and its oil is that it provided the sole source of light in the temple, being used in the menorah. The olive tree, when rustled by a breeze, appears to create light, the illusion being possible because of some of the leaves being light colored and some dark. Yeshua/ Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whosoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the light that leads to life.” John 8 v 12.
The symbolism is even deeper even than this, as Jesus, in that garden, was being pressed like an olive and he was producing not only olive oil of the spirit, but also the wine (blood) of the new covenant which was poured out for many (Matthew 26). He had mentioned this earlier that evening, when instituting the Lords supper, whilst at the Pesach table with His disciples. In doing so, He showed that he was the lamb without spot or blemish, who was to be sacrificed the next day for the sins of the people. When his side was pierced, as he hung on the cross not far from here, blood and water flowed from His side, which paid the price for the redemption and the healing of those who would receive Him as their Lord and Savior.
History and archeology:
The tradition associated with Gethsemane is very ancient. Eusebius, in his “Onomasticon” of biblical places (an alphabetical list of sites in the Holy Land, written for pilgrims by the Bishop of Caesarea in 295 CE) cited Gethsemane, indicating that it was at the foot of the Mount of Olives, “and even today the faithful flock there to pray”. In about 390, St. Jerome translated the Onomasticon into Latin and added a reference to the church that had been built at the place where Jesus had gone to pray before his death and resurrection. This would indicate that a church was already standing on this site by 390 AD.
There were two Byzantine Churches built close together, one on this site and one next to the grotto of Gethsemane. Then Crusader churches were built later, preserving the location, and the modern Church of All Nations was the final layer to be constructed. Of special note in the cave is an extension for an oil press, and a cistern. At the time of Jesus there were numerous natural caves in this region.
With regard to the modern church, the most striking feature is the bare stone in the center of the aisle, which tradition says is the rock where Peter James and John fell asleep in the garden. The church was designed by Barluzzi (an important Roman Franciscan architect in the Land who also designed the churches on Mount Tabor and the Mount of Beatitudes) to create the atmosphere of the evening before Jesus was taken and crucified. Thus it is dark inside in comparison to the bright sunshine outside. Within his design, he preserved elements of the original path of the water to the cistern, both by incorporating this line into his mosaic, and by leaving portions visible. The phi Ro symbol is also prominent in the mosaics – meaning Christos.
“And an angel appeared to him from heaven, comforting him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground”, Luke 22:43-44 Portions of scripture such as this are also represented in the art work, as is the betrayal with a kiss by Judas and the cutting off of the ear of the high priest by Peter.
The rock in the center of the church is seen as having been a witness to these things, reminding us of the verse that says that if we will not worship Him, the very rocks will cry out. We can imagine it as a silent witness to the momentous events that took place in its close vicinity. Some say that it is the very rock upon which he wept.
The story continues in John 18 in the garden with His arrest and betrayal:
When Jesus had spoken these words; He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. 2 And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. 3 Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. 4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” 5 They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. 6 Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 Then He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
8 Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek me, let these go their way,” 9 that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.” 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”
- It is important to give time for personal prayer and/ or a group devotional.
- It is best not to use the toilets at this site as there are not enough for a group.
- People should avoid the sellers as they may hassle the group.
- The group should be warned to be careful as they walk to the bus and not to walk in the middle of the road!
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