In the Garden (of Gethsemane)

Matthew 26:45-46

Today I take you with me to Israel for another in the series of insights I gained on my trip there last fall. It also fits snuggly in the ever-growing bin of Biblical messages which have been hiding in plain sight which I have repeatedly missed.

On that glorious morning, our field study took us to the Mount of Olives. One of many aspects of the Mount of Olives I had never understood previous to my pilgrimage is the Mount of Olives is a mountain ridge which looms over Jerusalem, not a single hill or mountain peak as I had envisioned. (More on the geography below).

Yet again, our professor and guide Dr. Jack Beck oriented us geographically and set the stage with regard to the culture and sociology in the area during Jesus’ life. He then had us open our Bibles to find what awaited us there. One of the passages on which he expounded (my focus today) was Matthew 26:45-46, where we find Jesus and the disciples praying on the Mount of Olives:

Then he came to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let’s be going. Behold, he who betrays me is at hand.”

I have heard many a sermon on this passage and have meditated on it frequently. But Jack brought his finely honed skills to bear revealing three new truths within.

First, he called my attention to verse 45, “Behold, the hour is at hand.” How many times had Jesus said, “My time has not yet come?” Here we find his declarative statement that his time has now come.

My “oh, wow” moment came with his second revelation, found in verse 46, “Arise, let’s be going. Behold, he who betrays me is at hand.” Jesus walks to the arresting party, they don’t overtake him. A pastor friend of mine has adopted the practice in serving communion to say, “Jesus gave up his body for you” and “Jesus gave his blood for you,” to drive home the point Jesus did it voluntarily, not out of obligation.

The third moment of clarity came when he shared the Hebrew Geth Shamen, from which Gethsemane is derived, translates as the oil press that crushes the olives and breaks them down. I knew from previous teachings Geth Shamen means oil press; it was the “crushes the olives and breaks them down” that momentarily stunned me in. Jesus was on the threshold of being crushed and broken down.

Which leads to today’s (optional) geography lesson.

Garden of Gethsemane Geography

Gethsemane GardenJust as the Mount of Olives was not as I had envisioned, so too the Garden of Gethsemane. The garden is not a “garden” as I envision a garden. It was a multi-acre, industrial olive grove on the Mount of Olives. This explains (for me at least) why Judas needed to accompany the arresting party. Knowing Jesus would be in the Garden of Gethsemane was insufficient. It would be like saying, “Robert is in Central Park.” If you’ve ever been to Central Park in New York City, you know “in Central Park” covers a lot of territory and you could spend hours searching Central Park for me and never find me.

Judean WildernessAnother relevance: The Judean Wilderness is visible and accessible from the Mount of Olives. When Jesus prays, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me; nevertheless, not what I desire, but what you desire,” (Matthew 26:39), he could have easily headed east into the wilderness. Also, Jack reminded us this is the same route David took in fleeing from his son Absalom when Absalom was seeking to overthrow David as king.

Humbled yet again by the voluntary acts of Jesus,