For centuries, we’ve thought of “Gethsemane” as a quiet place of prayer.
For all who came before followers of Jesus? “Gethsemane” was simply a place of very hard work.
Perhaps you know that the Garden of Gethsemane was at the base of the Mount of Olives. Did you also know that “Geth” means “press” and that “semane” means “oil?”
This was the place of the oil press. When the olives ripened, workers collected them, hauled them down the hill (who would want to haul them up the hill?) and got in line for the oil pressing process.
First, the olives were cracked and the first oil was collected. Then the broken olives were bagged, stacked and inserted into the press. Made of a long arm leveraged into firm footing, the press used heavy weights to squeeze every last drop out of the harvested olives.
There was nothing left when an olive left the Geth-semane.
Spiritually, there was nothing left of Jesus when he left the place, either.
He had taught all evening. He had washed his disciples’ feet, maybe even moving the heavy money bag aside so he could better wash the feet of Judas.
He had led the Passover meal. He had asked his closest men to stay awake with him. They slept, and he prayed. They couldn’t see the danger coming until it was too late. Jesus had seen it a long, long time before.
As he wrestled over his fate, Luke gives us an interesting detail. “And being in anguish,” Luke writes, “he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
Doctors call it “hematohidrosis.” Induced by great stress, rupturing blood vessels near the sweat glands of the forehead cause an appearance of “sweating blood.” More than likely, you’ve never been that stressed. But on that night, bearing the responsibility of the world’s salvation and needing to walk the final few steps toward the cross, it happened to Jesus.
And it happened within sight of a giant oil press that squeezed olives until there was nothing left to give.