Tour of Israel #15: Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane

The Gospels of Matthew and Mark identify the place where Jesus went on the night that He was betrayed as “Gethsemane” (Matt. 26:36; Mark 14:32), which means “olive press.” Jesus often retired to this a garden or orchard of olive trees, located across the Kidron valley from Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives, while He was visiting Jerusalem (Luke 22:39; John 18:1). Yet on this night, He knew that He would enter the garden a free man, but leave it as a prisoner. There, in the “olive press,” Jesus began to feel a crushing weight press against His soul, and the pure oil of obedience flowed forth from His holy heart.

Only eleven were allowed to enter the garden with Jesus, and only three formed the inner circle of intimate friendship and support. But even those three could not enter all the way into His sufferings with Him. Moving a stone’s throw away, Jesus fell to the earth and cried to God whether there might be some other way than to drink this “cup,” even as He went forth to trod the winepress alone to be crushed under deep soul-suffering and divine anger. For the cup is a biblical symbol for the wrath of God against sinners (Pss. 11:6; 75:7–8; Isa. 51:17; Jer. 25:15; Rev. 14:10).

There are no words strong enough to express His suffering in this garden. Mark says that He was “sore amazed” (Mark 14:33); Luke reports that He was “in an agony” (Luke 22:44). Matthew tells us that He cried out: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt. 27:38). In a word, Jesus was encompassed, encircled, and overwhelmed with grief.

In addition to His foreknowledge of the cross, a combination of formidable, intense sufferings beat mercilessly upon Him. Satan beset Him with the demons and powers of hell. The abominable nature of sin and the awful curse His Father placed upon it weighed heavily upon Him. His Father’s comforting presence began to withdraw from Him.

If His Godhead had not supported Him, Jesus could not have sustained the horrors of Gethsemane. Three times Jesus had to leave His disciples and cry out as He writhed in pain on the grounds of the garden, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

What should amaze us most about Gethsemane is not the dread wrath beginning to crush God’s Son, but the holy obedience with which He bore it. Heaven will eternally resound with wonder at those words, “not my will, but thine, be done.” Our last Adam emerged from this garden the Victor, ready to be bruised in order to crush the head of the serpent.

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