Before there was a Calvary, there was a Gethsemane. The sorrow Jesus experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane on the last night before His crucifixion seemed to be the culmination of all of the sorrow He had ever known. This time at Gethsemane, next to the cross itself, was the most difficult moment of His life. He underwent stress of cosmic dimensions.
What Is Gethsemane?
Gethsemane, meaning "oil press", is an orchard of olive trees at the foot of the Mount of Olives. The Garden of Gethsemane is referenced in the Old and New Testament, having historical and theological significance at the time of Jesus Christ and today.
Jessica Brodie gives an explanation of the location and scripture sources of Gethsemane, saying:
While the exact location is difficult to pinpoint, the Bible indicates the Garden of Gethsemane is on the Mount of Olives, a historic place of great meaning throughout the Bible. The Mount of Olives was a “Sabbath day’s walk from the city,” we are told in Acts 1:12. Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary tells us the Mount of Olives was named as such because it was clothed in olive trees. Sitting about 200 feet above sea level, it was one of a few mountain ridges east of Jerusalem and afforded a good view of the city. The valley of Kidron lies between the mountain and Jerusalem, and the whole region was a place Jesus often visited in his travels throughout the Gospels.
The Mount of Olives is a place of significance; King Solomon erected a “high place” there for the worship of foreign gods, causing the Lord to become very angry with him (1 Kings 7-11). King David and his followers fled Jerusalem through the Kidron Valley and up the Mount of Olives, weeping and barefoot, after his son Absalom rebelled with an uprising (2 Samuel 15:13-30). The Old Testament prophet Zechariah prophesied that “a day of the Lord” would be coming when the Lord would stand upon the Mount of Olives, ready for battle, and be king over the whole earth (Zechariah 14:1-9).
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
The Gospel of Matthew
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."
And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done." And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand." (Matthew 26:36-46)
The Gospel of Mark
And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.
And he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch." And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand." (Mark 14:32-42)
Bible Meaning of Gethsemane
Gethsemane, meaning "oil-press", is the name of an olive-yard at the foot of the Mount of Olives, to which Jesus was to retire (Luke 22:39) with his disciples, and which is especially memorable as being the scene of his agony (Mark 14:32; John 18:1; Luke 22:44). The plot of ground pointed out as Gethsemane is now surrounded by a wall, and is laid out as a modern European flower garden. It contains eight venerable olive trees, the age of which cannot, however, be determined.
Location of Gethsemane
The exact site of Gethsemane is still in question. Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book) says: "When I first came to Jerusalem, and for many years afterward, this plot of ground was open to all whenever they chose to come and meditate beneath its very old olive trees. The Latins, however, have within the last few years succeeded in gaining sole possession and have built a high wall around it...The Greeks have invented another site a little to the north of it...My own impression is that both are wrong. The position is too near the city, and so close to what must have always been the great thoroughfare eastward, that our Lord would scarcely have selected it for retirement on that dangerous and dismal night...I am inclined to place the garden in the secluded vale several hundred yards to the northeast of the present Gethsemane." (Excerpt from Easton's Bible Dictionary)
Also considered a small "farm," (Matthew 26:36) situated across the brook Kedron probably at the foot of Mount Olivet, to the northwest and about one-half or three-quarters of a mile English from the walls of Jerusalem, and 100 yards east of the bridge over the Kedron. There was a "garden," or rather an orchard, attached to it, to which the olive, fig, and pomegranate doubtless invited resort by their hospitable shade.
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