Join me as I walk the Garden of Gethsemane with Dr. Jack Beck.
The Hebrew is Geth Shemen – “the oil press that crushes the olives and breaks them down.” Jesus is about to be crushed and broken down… but not defeated.
As I well knew, the Garden of Gethsemane is situated on the Mount of Olives. What I didn’t realize was the Mount of Olives overlooks ancient Jerusalem as you face west, and more significantly overlooks the Judean wilderness as you look east.
The Mount of Olives is not only perfectly located geographically for Jesus’ pivotal moment, it is historically positioned, as well. When David’s son Absalom attempted his palace coup (and nearly succeeded), David fled his capital city, Jerusalem accompanied by his closest friends and advisors. David headed east over the Mount of Olives, through Bethany and into the safety of the Judean wilderness.
Jesus is praying at, or very near, the place where David would have crossed over the Mount of Olives. He too had the opportunity to flee into the safety of the Judean wilderness. Revisit the prayer he prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Please remove this cup from me. However, not what I desire, but what you desire.” Had God responded with another way which allowed the cup to pass, Jesus was perfectly situated to follow David’s footsteps and disappear into the Judean wilderness.
More significantly, I learned the Garden of Gethsemane was not a well-kept garden as I had always imagined. It was a vast, commercial olive production site, acres and acres. This helps me understand why Judas accompanied the arresting party. They needed his help in determning precisely where Jesus and the disciples would be in this vast garden.
Now, let’s leave Dr. Beck in the Garden with Jesus and the disciples and wander off on our own (which is to say what follows is merely my own speculation).
I wonder if Jesus and his men stopped in the Garden on this particular night because of the demanding day they had just experienced, or it occurs to me they might well have stopped here every evening. Remember, Mark’s gospel tells us not only that they were spending the nights at Bethany, but also that they were in the Temple teaching every day. It seems entirely plausible to me they would have established the custom of stopping here each and every evening to leave the baggage of the day behind and to reconnect with God before heading on to Bethany. How else would Judas have known they would stop in the Garden on this night?
I find many messages in this Musing. two of which rise to the top:
There are always layers to the Bible stories I miss unless someone points them out, layers that are incredibly interwoven, and
When I face particularly trying and exhausting days, it pays to pull aside and check in with God before proceeding.
Walking the Garden paths,