The Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives, to the east of the Temple Mount, across the narrow Kidron Valley. The garden was and is visible from the Temple Mount.

According to scripture (Matthew 26:36-56), Gethsemane is where Jesus and His disciples went on the night of His betrayal and arrest. In the garden, Jesus said to His disciples, “sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with Him three of His disciples, Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (James and John). In vs. 37, speaking about Jesus, we read “and began to be grieved and distressed.” In Greek, the word Ademoneo (ad-ay-mon-eh’-o) translated (distressed) is the strongest of the Greek words for 1. to be troubled, great distress or anguish, depressed. Jesus, the Word that became flesh, the Light of the world, prostrate in a dark place, pressed in on all sides by exceeding sorrow.

God tells us that night His Son was “deeply grieved, to the point of death.” We know Jesus prayed three times, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” I can’t even imagine the agony our Lord, Savior, and Friend was experiencing. I can’t even imagine drinking the cup He did. He knew what awaited Him and yet He waited in the dark until His wicked accusers came to take Him away to be (cut off.) Jesus, the Light of the World, lying prostrate in a dark garden called (an olive press), communing with His Heavenly Father. In verse 39, we’re told that Jesus “fell on His face and prayed”. He did not lower Himself slowly to the ground. In Greek, the word (fell) is best described as 1. to fall, to thrust down. Metaphorically. 2. to fall under judgement, to come under condemnation. Our Lord, the spotless lamb of God, was mere hours away from being made sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Can you imagine? Picture it in your mind: you’re there among the disciples. You have fallen asleep while your Lord is agonizing in prayer, when you are awakened by the sound of voices. The flames of lamps and torches come into view. You hear voices moving through the garden. You don’t know what is happening, but our Lord Jesus knows what is taking place. You watch the crowd take our master into custody. The air is tense and violence is springing up. You and the other disciples scatter in fear that you, to will be taken. If you had known that the next time you could get close to your Rabbi, He would hang on a cursed tree. Would you have stayed closer by His side as they drug Him off to be tried, sentenced, and killed?

Our Lord and Savior knew His destiny. He had told His disciples what the Son of man must suffer, and suffer He did.

WHY THE GARDEN CALLED GETHSEMANE?

The place is called Gethsemane. In the Greek, the word Gethsemane means (an olive press). It may not seem meaningful to you at this moment. However, when you understand how olives are harvested and processed, it will become meaningful.

I find it interesting and believe it’s no coincidence that the name of the garden where Jesus agonized in prayer about the cup He was to drink for the sins of humankind was named after a tool that allowed people to produce oil for their lamps. You’ll agree, if we want to see in the dark, we need the light.

Studying the process of how olive oil was then produced, I can imagine how Jesus could have felt pressed in on all sides. From the garden, to His trial, beatings, humiliations, false accusations, abandonment by His followers, denials, and crucifixion. Yes, it’s quite easy to understand how the violent act of producing olive oil is symbolic of what our Lord endured in the garden and over the course of the hours leading up to the completion of His earthly life and personal ministry.

In the days when Jesus walked among men, harvesting olive oil was laborious. Today, in some areas around Jerusalem, the process has not changed in the slightest.

Workers in the olive groves will spread a canvas tarp on the ground under an olive tree, then using long rods made from dense, yet flexible tree branches, they beat the trees, causing the olives to fall to the ground onto the tarps below. When the tarps become full, the harvesters carry the olives to an area near the olive press.

The olives, are then placed into the well of a horizontal cylindrical mill-stone and are crushed by a vertical cylindrical mill-stone that moves around in a circle inside the lower stone, crushing the olives and their pits. The vertical stone is pulled by a donkey harnessed to a wooden beam that is attached to the stone. The beast of burden walks around the press, causing the stones to do their crushing work.

When the olives become crushed, the mash is put into small woven shallow baskets. The baskets are stacked one on top of another (4-6 high) and a large, heavy cypress log is placed on top of the stack. The oil flows from the baskets into a narrow trough line that carries the oil into a small cistern.

The first pressed oil can be used for various purposes, but not for lighting lamps. Because the oil to be used in lamps must be further refined until it’s clear (Exodus 27:20; Leviticus 24:2). Only when the oil has been made clean and free from debris can it be used for lighting lamps. Dirty oil may be useful for food, but not for lighting a lamp. That oil must be clean and clear, referred to as pure.

Someone might think a little debris would be acceptable, but that would be incorrect. The oil must be clear and free from any debris that would clog the wick, rendering the lamp useless for making light. I have made many thousands of candles. I understand how the wax and fragrance used to make candles must be clean and free of debris to allow the candle wick to burn, allowing it to give light and fragrance throughout the life of any candle. It’s evident to know when the wax or fragrance, or both, are contaminated with debris. How? The candle, when lit, will only burn for a short time until it can no longer burn because of the debris prohibiting it from functioning.

In scripture, believers are repeatedly encouraged to purge from our lives from those things of the world that clog our wick. The things that prohibit our light from shining as our Lord desires. Therefore, we must encourage one another to be lamps that are prepared with clean oil, because it’s our Lord’s desire that we be lights in the world.

 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Kerry T Crane
Penned in December, 2023