On the lower western slopes of the Mount of Olives is Gethsemane. The name is derived from an Aramaic term meaning “oil press”. All over this area would have been olive tree orchards. Any oil press here no doubt would have been involved in the manufacturing of olive oil (used in food preparation and the lighting of candles).
We know from Scripture, that there was a Garden here. It may have been part of an estate of some sort. The word translated “place” in Matthew, Mark, and Luke could be translated “estate”:
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” Matthew 26:36
Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray”. Mark 14:32
And coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray you may not enter into temptation”. Lukke 22:39-40
When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and his disciples entered. John 18:1
Many important events took place here the night the Lord was betrayed. After the Last Supper, Jesus led His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane:
The Lord prayed to the Father that the cup of God’s Divine Wrath might pass from Him, but only if it was the Father’s Will (Luke 22: 42)
An angel ministered to the Lord (Luke 22: 43)
The Lord in agony sweat great drops of blood (Luke 22: 44)
The disciples fell asleep on their watch (Luke 22: 45 – 46)
Judas came with soldiers and betrayed Jesus with a kiss (Luke 22: 47 – 48)
Peter cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest (Luke 22: 49 – 50; John 18: 10 – 11); and then Jesus healed Malchus (Luke 22: 51)
Jesus was arrested and taken by the Captain of the Guard (Luke 22: 52 – 53)
Because of the Garden’s significance, the Roman Catholic Church has built the “Church of All Nations” here. The Catholics do know how to make impressive buildings. Evidence for this site goes back at least to the 4th Century.
A key feature to the building is its use of translucent purplish-blue alabaster windows. This night-time effect re-creates the atmosphere that night the Lord was in the Garden.
The bedrock here appears to have been used as part of an olive press in the 1st Century. Byzantine tradition associates this rock with the place where Christ was said to have prayed while in the Garden. This rock is enshrined within the Church.
For many tourists though, the most memorable part of the visit to the “Church of All Nations” is the collection of ancient olive trees in its garden.
In Biblical times, many would encamp here during each Feast Day. Those who had traveled great distances and yet were too poor to afford lodging, would use the Garden.
In 70AD, the Romans destroyed all of the trees here as they needed material during their seige. We know this from the writings of Josephus. However, the roots of many olive trees were left in tact. Those roots over time gave rise to the trees in the garden here. Some of the trees in the “Church of All Nations” garden date back nearly 1600 years.
Such an impressive tree came from what was no doubt just a shoot left in the ground. You couldn’t help but think of the famous prophecy regarding the Lord as found in Isaiah:
There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Did You Know?
From the Garden of Gethsemane, you can look directly across to the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem (i.e., the Golden Gate). According to Ezekiel’s prophecy, this Gate will be walled up after Messiah’s entrance during the yet to be Millennial Reign of Christ.
Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut. And the LORD said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.
Unfortunately, many have erroneously used this as an example of fulfilled Bible prophecy. Since the gate is walled up today, they say that the prophecy of Ezekiel must have been fulfilled. Even General Allenby refused to enter Jerusalem by way of this Gate after he had conquered the city from the Turks.
The fact is that the Golden Gate was only walled up by the Muslims 1,000 years or so ago. Obviously, this is long after the Lord’s earthly ministry. Arab leaders did this to try and prevent the arrival of the Jewish Messiah. Over the years, Muslim graves have been placed in front of the Eastern Gate. This too has been done in contempt of the Jews. They believe that the Jewish Messiah is bound by Old Testament laws from coming in contact with the dead (which they interpret to include gravesites).
The prophecy of Ezekiel is yet to be fulfilled in the future! It is Millennial in nature and will ultimately be fulfilled after Christ returns in His Second Coming! Hermeneutics and the art of how to correctly interpret Scripture is important.
Further, the Gate the Lord would have traveled through is several feet below the ground level of the Gate today.
According to Luke…
According to the Gospel of Luke, the Lord ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives (or more specifically, from near Bethany):
And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.
Luke further writes in the Book of Acts that two angels then met the disciples. They informed them that the Lord would return here in the same manner in which He left:
And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.
This is in keeping with a prophecy given 4 centuries earlier by Zechariah. He said one day the Lord will return with His saints to the Mount of Olives:
Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley…Thus the LORD my God will come, and all the saints with You.
For believers in Christ who can’t afford to take a trip over to the Holy Land, there’s no need to worry. The Bible makes it clear that we will all get a free airfare over to Israel one day! We will all return with Christ at the time of His Second Coming.