(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
The second garden of the four gardens of God is called Gethsemane (see Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32). In the gospel of John it is simply identified as a garden (see John 18:1 and 26). Matthew’s description of what happened in Gethsemane runs from verse 36 to verse 57 – too long to quote here. So I will relate only the first four verses, 36 to 39, upon which I feel we should concentrate:
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply dis- tressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
I believe the battle that Jesus Christ fought for the souls of mankind was not won on the cross as much as it was in Gethsemane! For it was there that…
- …the humanity of Jesus (yes, He was fully human as well as fully divine) recoiled from the horrible suffering and mistreatment He was about to endure over the next 24 hours! He also was repulsed by being made sin for all mankind!
- …the battle was won! For it is recorded in verse 39 of our featured Scripture, “He… prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’”
✞ I contend that this is the most important prayer a Christian can pray! ➔ Some would say that the most important prayer would be what the tax collector prayed in the temple complex, recorded in Luke 18:13, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” This (or some form of such a prayer) is the most important prayer that a non-Christian can pray.......to accept Jesus as Savior! ➔ But the most important prayer a Christian can pray is, “...my Father...not as I will, but as you will.” Now it can be in other words, such as, “God, whatever You want I will do it, even if I don’t want to!” But we must pray this kind of prayer in every situation we face! ✞ But here is an amazing truth I have learned, and it is found in Philippians 2:13: “...for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” ➔ He not only gives us the strength to ‘do’ what- ever it is He calls us to do! But... ➔ ...God also gives us the ‘will’ to do whatever it is He calls us to do! And I have learned that when I have the will (the ‘want to’), then the ‘do it’ becomes a lot easier, because I want to do what God is directing me to do!
But let’s get back to the garden of Gethsemane. Although it is called a garden in John 18:1, Bible scholars and archeologists agree that Gethsemane was a place where olives were processed, pressing them to release the precious olive oil that was so necessary to everyday life. The very name Gethsemane means oil press.
How was olive oil produced? Olives where picked from the surrounding trees and dumped into a large round stone base. Another heavy stone was rolled over the olives to make a paste. Any oil then released was collected and saved. Then the paste was put in a low basket, and up to twelve baskets were piled on top of one another and pressed with heavy rock weights to release more oil. There were usually three pressings to extract all the available oil.
- The first pressing produced the finest oil, for temple use and anointing.
- The second pressing produced oil for cooking and cosmetics.
- The third was the least pure and was used for lamp oil and soap.
Jesus was ‘pressed’ to such an extreme in Gethsemane that we are told in Luke 22:44, “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.” It is a rare medical condition called hematidrosis, where capillaries may rupture and blood oozes from sweat glands. This can happen under extreme stress (it has been manifested in prisoners awaiting execution), and is the probable cause of Jesus sweating blood.
It says in Deuteronomy 33:25, “As your days, so shall your strength be.” It was true in Jesus’ case! For we are told in Lule 22:43, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.” We have the same assurance in I Corinthians 10:13: “…God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted [tried, tested] beyond what you are able, but with the temptation [trial, testing] will also make the way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
The garden of Gethsemane was also the place of further happenings beyond the limited scope of our featured Scripture:
- In Matthew 26:40 through 45 we are told that three times Jesus prayed “…saying the same words.” (Matthew 26:45). And before He prayed, He told the three disciples with Him, Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:40). But each time the Lord prayed, He then came back to where the three were, and three times He found them sleeping! When the moment of testing came, when the mob arrived to arrest Jesus, “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” (Matthew 26:56).
- Matthew 26:47 through 50 describe the arrival of the mob, composed of “…a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came with lanterns, torches, and weapons…” (see John 18:3). Mark 14:43 describes it thus: “…a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.”
- It was all led by Judas, the disciple (one of the twelve) who agreed to betray Jesus for “…thirty pieces of silver.” (Matthew 26:15). In Exodus 21:32 we are told that thirty shekels (pieces) of silver was the price to be paid for the life of a slave!
➔ Judas “...was a thief...” (John 12:6). ➔ He is called “...the son of perdition...” (John 17:12). ➔ It is said in Luke 22:3 that “...Satan entered Judas....” ➔ The sign of betrayal with which Judas agreed to identify Jesus in the darkness of the Gethsemane night was “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; take Him and lead Him away....” (Mark 14:44). ➔ Although Judas did repent (of sorts), saying to “...the chief priests and elders, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood...’” – when the chief priests and elders rejected his remorse, “...he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:4, 5).
- Impulsive Peter, who had one of the two swords with which the twelve were armed (see Luke 22:28), swung his weapon, and succeeded only to cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest (see John 18:10), which Jesus then healed! (see Luke 22:51).
- One of the more impressive things that happened in the garden of Gethsemane is recorded in John 18:4 through 6 (International Standard Version):
Then Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen, went forward and asked them, “Who are you looking for?” They answered him, “Jesus from Nazareth.” Jesus told them, “I AM.” Judas, the man who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus told them, “I AM,” they backed away and fell to the ground.
I quoted the International Standard Version because I believe this version has the translation right! When the mob stated that they were seeking “Jesus from Nazareth,” Jesus powerfully answered with the personal name of God that He revealed for Himself in Exodus 3:14 and 15, “…I AM….This is My name forever….” The mob, upon hearing that divine name, “…backed away and fell to the ground…”! Just speaking the mighty name of God by the Son of God knocked them flat!
- Yes, Jesus could have called for “…more than twelve legions of angels…” (Matthew 26:53 – more than 72,000 angels!) but He didn’t need them!
- His word was (and is) so powerful, that all creation came into existence just by the spoken Word! (see John 1:3; Colossians 1:16, 17).
This second garden of God is a powerful place! Yes, in a sense it is also a tragic place.
But Gethsemane is a place of great victory!
And we share in that victory!
“…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(I Corinthians 15:57)