‘And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane’, Mark 14. 32
The traditional site of the garden of Gethsemane is located towards the east of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley close to the Mount of Olives, Matt. 26. 30. It is dwarfed by the imposing temple mount that overshadows it. The name ‘Gethsemane’ is derived from the Aramaic meaning for ‘oil press’. Josephus states that Titus destroyed all the trees around Jerusalem when he besieged the city in AD 70, and so the olive trees currently growing in the garden may only date back to medieval times. John records that the Lord and His disciples were frequent visitors to this garden, John 18. 1, 2, and it was here that the Lord prepared Himself for the ordeal that lay before Him, Matt. 26. 36-39. Prior to this preparation, the Lord had sung a hymn with His disciples as they made their way to the Mount of Olives, 26. 30. This hymn was, in all probability, part of the Jewish liturgy known as the Egyptian Hallel (meaning ‘praise’), which incorporated Psalms 113 to 118, and was so named because of its reference to the Exodus in Psalm 114 verse 1. The poignancy of these psalms, especially Psalm 116 verses 1 to 4, would have been deeply felt by the Lord as He prayed in Gethsemane and contemplated the horrors of the cross. He would keep His vows to His Father, Ps. 116. 14; Matt. 26. 39, and, irrespective of what men might do to Him, He would ultimately triumph, Psalm 118. Little wonder, then, as He agonized in the garden, His soul was ‘very sorrowful, even unto death’, Matt. 26. 38, again taking up the refrain of the Psalmist in Psalms 42, 43 (LXX), cp. Ps. 22. 24. How little the three chosen disciples who went with Him that little further understood His predicament. They failed to obey His request, Mark 14. 37, 38, 40, 41, yet His request was honoured by His Father as He, the Son, ‘learned obedience through what he suffered’, Heb. 5. 8 ESV. Betrayal, arrest and a violent death would follow in the purposes of God so that His exodus might be achieved, Luke 9. 31. We cannot leave such a scene though without realizing the great contrast that is being made between two gardens and two men. In the first garden all was pleasant and beautiful to the eye, but, through the assertion and disobedience of one man, havoc was reeked on the whole of the human race, Rom. 5. 12 et seq. But, in Gethsemane, we find a second man, the last Adam, 1 Cor. 15. 45, 47, who later humbles Himself, Phil. 2. 8, and, through this one act of obedience, restores all that the first man lost, Rom. 5. 19, finally to bring ‘many sons unto glory’, Heb. 2. 10.
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