A Provocative Question
"Are those olive groves?" That was the question that my wife asked me this morning. We were on our way back to our apartment after the daily grocery shop!
A Dominant Crop
Rows upon rows of olive trees, almost everywhere you look - along with other fruit crops, and grapevines that abound, it is hard not to notice how the olive dominates the the landscape, agriculture, and mindset around lake Garda.
A Graeco-Roman Pulse
Olives are used for cooking. Olives are good to eat. Olives were used for fuel - in fact, in the ancient Roman world, the economy was largely olive-driven. Olives, for the Latins, were part and parcel of everyday life.
Which brings me to Gethsemane...
This observation, prompted by Hazel's question, made me wonder why Jesus chose Gethsemane, or "the olive press", as the ideal grove for groans - for His submissive, prayerful, hemorrhagic, perspiring, terrorized, weeping sobs and pleas? Why here, at the Olive Press, for Jesus to struggle with the prospect of draining Calvary's woe-filled, fuming, cup? How do we explain His selection of this site for head-on collision with the prospect of sin-deserving holy wrath as our selfless, sacrificial, substitute?
Let me suggest 5 things, plus 1 other:
- Destiny - this was the garden which the Father had appointed before the world began as the place in which Christ would sweat bloody drops: of that there is no doubt.
- Habit - the evangelists make it clear that this was the place where Jesus was accustomed to retire for fellowship and prayer to rejuvenate his heart.
- Silence - beneath the shady arbor of those ancient, gnarled, olive-boughs, the Savior sought stillness to turn focused, inquiring, words to God.
- Privacy - after His last meal, He tiptoed down the slope, crossed Kidron's weeping Brook, ascended the craggy incline, to do combat with God's wrath, away from crowds and cameras, secluded from the world: how appropriate that this most personal, sacred, moment of all, for Earth's Creator and Redeemer, should be hidden from public glare, not exploited by paparazzi, and only later disclosed to us by revelation through His apostles.
- Crushing - just as an olive must be crushed in a press before it yields its oil, so Jesus must be agonizingly crushed till the oil of His love audibly issues from His heart.
Another Reason - To Engrave His Agony Indelibly on your Soul!
Perhaps, however, we can add one other reason: how could anyone in the ancient Roman world, who had been privileged to learn of His gladiatorial garden, and see the terrible horror of what sin-bearing would mean for Christ, ever let that memory slip from the forefront of their thoughts?
His "Chamber of Horrors", after all, took place on the ground of the Garden on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. Olives, olives, olives... everywhere you looked. It would be like a Chinese Christ suffering in a Padi Field of Rice, a US Christ experience torment at a MacDonald's hamburger joint, or a UK Christ doing combat at a Petrol (or Gas) Station. You could not travel more than a few blocks without being reminded of God's love!
Lest We Forget
Life, in those days, revolved around the Olive - so whether or not it was a deliberate choice, so the mind could have no escape, let us make it a point of principle: on a daily basis, keep the love of Christ, who gladly embraced the Cross, and drained the hellish cup of woe for us, before your heart - through attention to preaching, reading, supplicating and meditating, never lose sight of devotion in the drops of the loving Lord Jesus' bloody sweat.
Lest I forget Gethsemane;
Lest I forget Thine agony;
Lest I forget Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.