The Garden of Gethsemane is not really a garden but an orchard. Olive trees
still grow there today. During Jesus' day it was a place of business, an
olive press produced the local areas supply of oil. This is where the word
Gethsemane comes in. A gat (Hebrew) is a press, a large five-foot high
square stone pillar, and a semane, or seman, is oil. So on the evening
before his crucifixion he went to the orchard of the Olive Press with Peter,
James, and John, to pray.
If you lived in the first century and worked with a gethsemane your day would be spent gathering olives, placing them in a woven fishnet like bag, and putting them on top of a stone table specially designed. It is round with edges that curve down to a trough all around the base. The trough is angled and funnels into a pot which holds the oil. The top is designed to receive the gethsemane. The tall square stone is lifted up and set on top of the basket and for several hours its tremendous weight is left there to crush the liquid from the olive.
It is no mistake that Jesus spent his last evening in the Garden of Gethsemane. From there he would leave to go to the cross and receive the weight of the world, the gethsemane of our sins, blood crushed from his body running down the cross to the world below. Luke describes the pressure Jesus suffered that evening: "Being in anguish his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." It is an image of the gathsemane crushing the oil from the olive fruit.
Gethsemane ever since has come to symbolize suffering. And my friends the world is crowded with gethsemanes, Herods slaughtering the innocent. Look around the United States: Oklahoma City, Heath High School, Columbine, New York City. And around the world: Dunblane in Scotland, Halabja in Iraq (i.e., the gassing of the Kurds), Srebrenica in Bosnia, and now the town of Beslan, in Russia. Russia now has had its September 11. The world is full of gethsemanes, times when and towns where the innocent have suffered.
In the face of such unspeakable horror we ask ourselves these questions:
1. Who do we turn to?
2. What do we do?
3. Where do we go from here?
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