8. Garden of GethsemaneIn the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sets an example for all of us...
It had been a long day on top of a long week ever since Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and His clearing the Temple. The tension was thick as the disciples spent their days in the Temple area listening to Jesus sparring with religious leaders. Each night, they crossed the Kidron Valley and climbed the Mount of Olives to spend the evenings in Bethany. Peter and John had been given the task to prepare the Passover that Jesus and His disciples had just completed. During the evening, they had experienced Jesus washing their feet and Judas’ abrupt departure. As part of their celebration of the angel of death passing over the children of Israel in Egypt and their deliverance from slavery, Jesus had talked about the coming Holy Spirit, vines and branches, and being friends among other topics. He also blessed the bread and wine, declaring these were His body and blood and they left the upper room singing hymns as they made their way through the dark streets of Jerusalem.
Their usual custom was to stop at a specific garden each evening for prayer. Some disciples may have been wondering if maybe they would pass on this since the day had been so full. But as He opened the gate into this enclosure of olive trees, Jesus told them to sit here while He left to pray, saying, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation” (Luke 22:40). He took Peter, James and John with Him farther into the garden and told them, “Stay here and keep watch with me.” His soul was crushed with grief to the point of death (Mark 14:33). He then went a little farther and fell to the ground, crying out to God, asking that the awful hour waiting for Him might pass him by. “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
The garden was called “Gethsemane” which means oil press, and many oil presses have been found on the Mount of Olives. An oil press is a large rock with a depression in the top in which sits another boulder. To get the oil from the olive, it was put between the rocks with the upper rock being rolled around the lower, crushing the olive and releasing oil. The crushed olives were then placed in large sacks and placed on top of each other with a large log pressing down on them. With one end of the log secured, weights were placed on the other end, squeezing the sacks full of crushed olives and producing the precious oil. Evidently, an oil press was present in the section of olive trees enclosed by a rock wall near the base of the Mount of Olives just across the Kidron brook. It is here that Jesus had chosen to pray each evening, and on this night His soul was crushed by the weight of the coming trial–the cup of suffering He was going to drink.
Last month, we considered another garden, this one a paradise where Adam and Eve walked with God. In that garden, they gave into temptation and chose to do what they wanted instead of what God had commanded. The outcome of that choice was sin entering the world which separated mankind from God. It is appropriate that we come to another garden at night where the work of crushing olives for their oil takes place. Here, Jesus in contrast to Adam and Eve, chooses God’s will instead of His own. He is aware that this choice will mean great suffering and will lead to an agonizing death on a Roman cross. His was not a temptation of fruit that was good to the eye, but obedience to God which was required in both gardens.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sets an example for all of us. We are each tempted every day to follow our own desires and wants or we can elect to to be obedient to God’s will and commands. Scripture records that three times Jesus prayed, “I want your will to be done, not mine” (Matthew 26:39). No matter which garden we find ourselves; the choice is the same. We can listen to the lies of Satan and want the delicious fruit and “the wisdom it would give” and decide to disobey God. Or we can follow the example of Jesus, who, even though obedience to God’s plan would be painful, chose what God wanted and salvation was provided for you and me.
What will you choose today?
Lt. Colonel Dean Hinson is the secretary for Spiritual Life Development in the USA Southern Territory.