Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane

When Were The Gospels Written? Via Dolorosa
Garden of Gethsemane - Mount of Olives

Garden of Gethsemane, Mount of Olives

Garden of Gethsemane is located just east of Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley, at the foot of Mount of Olives. Garden of Gethsemane is where olives from the Mount of Olives were pressed into oil (first century gardens served an economic purpose). The name of the garden, "Gethsemane," is derived from the Hebrew words "gat," which means, "a place for pressing," and, "shemanim," which means, "oils").

Two thousand years ago, Garden of Gethsemane was where Jesus sweated blood, where Judas Iscariot betrayed innocent blood, and where Peter drew Malchus' blood.

Today, Garden of Gethsemane is a Catholic monastery with a garden of eight olive trees, including a few that are claimed to be 2,000 years old and still bear olives (Olive trees are resilient. After a couple of centuries, they stop bearing olives and wither. But if the withered branches are broken or cut away, new branches sprout and the tree starts to bear olives again. One olive tree in Magliano in Italy's Tuscany region is said to be 3,500 years old).

More dubious was the claim that Jesus prayed on the large flat rock in the middle of the Garden of Gethsemane monastery. When pressed for Biblical evidence of Jesus having prayed on that rock or any other rock in the Garden of Gethsemane, the friar in charge of the monastery conceded that that detail had been added by his tradition.

Jesus praying in the Garden of GethsemaneThis small relief sculpture, found in the Garden of Gethsemane, depicts Jesus praying in agony the night He was betrayed by Judas: "And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Luke 22:44)

Did Jesus really sweat blood?

Arteries can rupture when a person is under great stress. Examples include strokes and heart attacks but also "hematohidrosis," in which the arterioles surrounding sweat glands rupture, leaking blood into the sweat glands. When the resulting mixture of blood and sweat is excreted through the sweat pores, the appearance is red, "like great drops of blood."

Why was Jesus so stressed?

The typical answer is that Jesus knew and agonized over the physical pain of flogging and crucifixion that awaited Him the next day. Thirty-nine lashes with the Roman flagellum, a whip with imbedded metal and bone fragments will shred His back. Thorns will dig into the crown of His head, and large nails will puncture His wrists, crushing the ulnar nerve, and His feet. When the cross is stood upright, both of His shoulders will dislocate from the weight of His body, and He will push up and down on His legs to lower and raise His diaphragm in order to breath, rubbing his shredded back against the rough wood of the cross for six hours until death.

During its Inquisition, Roman Catholics often roasted Christians over fire for longer than six hours for their refusal to pledge allegiance to the Pope. Many of those Christians died while praising Jesus and even singing hymns to Him. Dying on the cross was painful, but being slow roasted over fire arguably was even more so. If Jesus sweated blood over the physical pain of dying on the cross, He would have had some explaining to do to His followers who sang their way through even more painful physical deaths.

Then why was Jesus so stressed? The Bible says that there was a cup that He didn't want to drink: And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." (Luke 22:41-42)

What was in the cup?

Instead of a tea cup, imagine a giant trophy cup, the type awarded to winners of Formula One car races. Walk up to it spit into it all of the gross things you have done in your life, and then have millions of other people do likewise until the cup is full.

Jesus, who is sinless, was being asked to drink all of this liquid filth so that He becomes not just "full of sin," but sin itself: "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21) It would have been perplexing if Jesus hadn't been utterly revolted, to the extent of sweating blood, at this prospect. But there's something else.

Since the beginning of eternity, God the Son - Jesus - had always been in union with God the Father. That union needed to be interrupted when Jesus drinks the cup, lest the Father also becomes sin. Jesus' abhorrence of being separated from the Father is attested to by His bloody sweat, as well as His heartbroken cry from the cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34)

If you are Christian, do you abhor being apart from God, and are you as revolted by your sins as Jesus was?

Travel Tip
To get to Garden of Gethsemane on foot, exit Old Jerusalem eastward via Stephen's Gate, and then simply walk down to and across the Kidron Valley. If coming by taxi and visiting the Mount of Olives as well, getting off at the top of the Mount and walking down to the Garden will be easier on your legs than getting off at the bottom and hiking up.

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