11 Apr. Mark 14:32-42

11 Apr. Jesus prays in the olive groves of Gethsemane

"Jesus and his followers went to a place called Gethsemane. He said to them, 'Sit here while I pray.'"

"Jesus took Peter, James and John [his closest friends] with him, and he began to be very sad and troubled. He said to them, 'My heart is full of sorrow, to the point of death. Stay here and [keep] watch.'"

"After walking a little farther away from them, Jesus fell to the ground and prayed that, if possible, he would not have this time of suffering. He prayed, 'Abba [Daddy], Father! You can do all things. Take away this cup of suffering. But do what YOU want, not what I want.'"

"Then Jesus went back to his followers and found them asleep... Again Jesus went away and prayed the same thing. Then he went back to his followers, and again he found them asleep, because their eyes were very heavy..."

"After Jesus prayed a third time, he went back to his followers and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting? That's enough. The time has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to sinful people. Get up, we must go. Look, here comes the man who has turned against me.'"

          (Mark 14:32-42)



Have you ever taken part in an all-night prayer vigil? That is exactly what Jesus asked his disciples to do on the eve of the Jewish Passover Festival.

The disciples would probably not have thought this unusual on such an important day in the Jewish religious calendar. In their minds, there would have been no urgency in 'keeping watch'; after all, they weren't expecting Jesus to be arrested by the Jewish religious authorities and tried for treason by the Roman military occupiers!

Jesus had taken his followers to pray in an olive grove on the slope of the Mount of Olives facing the walls of the Temple Mount (see yesterday's map). Unfortunately, the words used in English translations of the Bible have resulted in at least two geographical misinterpretations of this location:

Firstly, the "garden" of 'Gethsemane' (meaning an ‘olive press’) was NOT a "garden" in the modern sense of the word. In Biblical usage, a "garden" simply means a cultivated place (like the "garden" of Eden) as distinct from an area of uncultivated ground. It was (and still is today) more like an orchard than a garden. It is similar to thousands of ancient olive groves whose cultivation still provides a viable living for Palestinian farmers today.

And secondly, the "mount" of Olives is NOT a "mountain"; it is a gently-sloping hillside forming a low ridge between the Kidron Valley and the villages of Bethany and Bethphage. It faces west towards Jerusalem, and would have been the ideal place for olives to ripen in the summer sunshine.

During the day it would have been a favourite place for pilgrims to gather in the shade to escape the heat, noise, bustle and bad smells of the old city across the Kidron Valley, and it would have been very familiar to Jesus and his followers.

In this popular public meeting place on the lower slopes of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed in great anguish for several hours while the disciples fell asleep. “Abba, Father!” he said, “ You CAN take away this cup of suffering. But do what YOU want, not what I want.” (Mark 14:36)

Jesus was fully aware of what would happen next, but he also knew clearly that his Father's plan to bring mankind back to himself was more important than his personal suffering... And so the stage was set for Jesus's immanent arrest, trial and execution.

Today, there are still olive trees at this spot, close to the Church of All Nations (also called the 'Church of the Agony at Gethsemane') which commemorates the events that occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane in 30AD.

This modern church, erected in 1924 with donations from people of many nations, was built on the site of two earlier churches. These were an ‘elegant’ church described by a pilgrim in 382AD (that was destroyed in an earthquake in c.785AD), and a later Crusader church (built in c.1170 and abandoned in 1345) on the rock where Jesus is said to have prayed.

The photo shows some of the ancient olive trees at Gethsemane where Jesus prayed.

You can read more about the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/jesus-crosses-the-kidro…/…

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