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Gethsemane: The Place of the Olive Press

It was late in the evening when the disciples left the Upper Room where they ate the Last Supper together. Tradition tells us that the room was to the west of the Old City of Jerusalem. They walked eastwards together to the Mount of Olives situated to the eastern side of the Temple Mount, crossing the Kidron valley that separated Herod’s temple from the Mount of Olives. Luke wrote that this was His usual place to stay the night, sleeping under the stars. Even though Jesus knew that Judas was about to bring the temple guards there to arrest Him, He still went to the place Judas knew of. The arrest was no surprise to Jesus; He knew how much time He had to pray and had no thought of escape or avoiding what was coming. Matthew and Mark both tell us the place was called Gethsemane, whereas John calls it an olive grove. Luke writes that the place was the Mount of Olives. Passover always coincided with the full moon, the light of which enabled the disciples to see Jesus praying. The Mount of Olives was so-called because of the many olive trees growing there. The name Gethsemane means the place of the olive press. Olive oil was used for lighting, and perhaps was the very source of the huge candelabra’s that lit up the temple and the surrounding area of Jerusalem at night. The oil was extracted by crushing the olives in the press, maybe the very press there in the Garden of Gethsemane.

39Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." 41He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.45When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46"Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation" (Luke 22:39-46).

What was happening there on the Mount of Olives? That’s the big question we want to answer with our meditation today. In this passage, we see Jesus confronting His own death. In the Garden, we get a picture of what went through Christ’s mind as He talked to His Father in prayer. It seems significant that He who called Himself the Light of the World (John 8:12), would go through a crushing and pressing experience there in Gethsemane, the place of the olive press. The Lord said that we Christians are also lights of the world (Matthew 5:14). If as followers of Christ we desire to shine brightly and be used by God, don’t be surprised if the Spirit takes you into the darkness of a Gethsemane experience. It is in that place that we have to battle in our minds whether to hold onto our self-life or make the choice to follow the Lord Jesus wholeheartedly. Some of you reading these words today battle with this very issue. Do not think it a coincidence you have come to find this meditation. Many of us have come to Christ by going through a broken and pressing experience causing us to ponder the meaning of life. Has the Spirit of God brought you today to wonder about what happens at death or to wonder about the meaning of your life?

The Lord allows a Gethsemane pressing experience to take place in our lives to awaken us to the reality of His love and purpose in life. In Gethsemane, we are tempted to give in to our flesh and do whatever pleases us or give us “happiness.” We can answer to our fears and our appetites, or we can seek a higher way. During this kind of situation, we face a crossroads in our lives. We can take the easy road, or we can take the “Christ road.” The Christ road will bring us pain at times, but it is the way of fruitfulness. The road to maturity is the way of the Cross. These choices seem counter-intuitive when viewed in the light of self-preservation. In our Gethsemane experiences, we can trust the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the way to go. He will reveal the choices that honor God and keep us true. He will give us the strength and ability to choose the right way if that is what we desire. Although it may be hard, He offers us His strength and peace to walk through the darkness of the cross road. Help many today, Lord Jesus, to take the cross road into fruitfulness in You. Amen! Keith Thomas

Taken from the Gospel of Luke study in the life of Christ, Study 60, Jesus at Gethsemane


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