Some places burn themselves into our memories. Maybe it’s the house we grew up in, or the one where we raised our children. Maybe it’s the church where the main events of our lives played out.
The Mount of Olives must have been just such a place of the heart for Jesus. Mount Olivet was familiar turf. The home of Mary and Martha was nearby in the little town of Bethany. Many think that it was on the slopes of this Mount that Jesus delivered His famous Sermon on the Mount. We are not told.
King David once climbed the Mount of Olives in tearful retreat from his rebellious son, Absalom.
Here, too, Christ Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem for people who, as He put it, simply “would not.”
Here in prophetic and symbolic terms, the prophet Zechariah pictured the coming Savior planting His feet in judgment and victory.
And from the summit of Olivet, a hundred feet higher than lofty Jerusalem itself, Jesus visibly ascended into heaven in the presence of the apostles.
On the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives as a park-like garden called Gethsemane. The name Gethsemane means “oil press.” Amid the olive trees from which the Mount took its name, there was doubtless such a press in this garden for producing olive oil. Perhaps there was an old tool shed on the grounds as well.
Jesus came here often with His disciples to pray, says the Bible. Who knows what precious instruction He gave to His disciples here in this garden?
Numerous shrines and churches have been built and subsequently turned to rubble near this site over the centuries. The general area is known, but the exact location is no longer certain. There are still centuries-old, gnarled olive trees, but not from the time of Jesus. In A.D. 70, General Titus, when destroying Jerusalem, ordered that all the trees be cut down.
However you may picture Gethsemane in your own mind, it is one of those places of the heart in the Lenten history of our Lord. It became, on that night of our Lord’s betrayal, holy ground.
Here the battle was joined. Here in the shadows of the olive trees, Christ wrestled with the hard will of His Father. Here he willingly picked up our infinite burden and went forth to betrayal, arrest, trial, mocking, scourging and the cross. Let us bind what happened in this place to our own hearts!