With the Passover meal complete, Jesus and his disciples left the borrowed room and went to the Garden of Gethsemane, an olive grove in the Kidron Valley, on the lower western slope of the Mount of Olives. Gethsemane means “Oil Press” in Hebrew, which indicates that it was an industrial oil operation. Olive oil was a major commodity in the ancient world – used for everything from cooking to cleaning, skin care to lamp fuel.
In addition to oil presses, the Garden of Gethsemane was full of olive trees, which made it a great place to seek solitude. It appears that Jesus and his disciples often visited a particular spot — a garden area buried within the olive groves. Jesus would take his friends there to rest and pray after long days in the Temple complex.
However, this time was different… Jesus was overwhelmed with anxiety… According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said to Peter, James and John:
My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38)
The Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives is now protected by the walled grounds of the Church of all Nations — also known as the Church of the Agony. It is a peaceful garden among a grove of ancient olive trees, looking back at the eastern wall of the City of Jerusalem. It’s here that the Gospel of Luke says Jesus knelt down and prayed:
Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Never before had his closest disciples heard this kind of language from their Teacher. Never before had they seen Jesus so filled with anguish. Jesus was even sweating blood. Today, the medical community calls this very rare condition, “Hematidrosis,” or “blood sweat” – where blood oozes from the forehead, tear ducts, nose, nails, and other skin surfaces. The rare condition can be caused by severe distress… Obviously, Jesus was in severe distress.
“Gethsemane” – The name of the olive grove itself even contributes to the agony of the scene. Hebrew, “gat,” means “press,” and “shemen,” means “oil” – it was as if Jesus’ sorrow was so intense that he was being pressed… squeezed… crushed… under the weight of a huge olive press.
In the end, Jesus could have just walked away. The rugged canyons and caves of the Judean Wilderness were just an hour’s walk away. It was night. It was a simple move to escape. But, as difficult as it was, Jesus knew his identity – he knew his destiny. The Good Shepherd chose the path of laying down his life for his sheep. He reconvened with his disciples and said,
“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 26:45-46)