After the Last Supper Jesus walked with the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane, to begin the final steps to the destiny that awaited Him. The Gospel of John 8:1 says that they went “over the brook Cedron, where there was a garden”, referring to the Kidron Valley (page 119). The name Gethsemane means oil press, and there seems no reason to doubt the tradition that this is the garden named in Matthew’s Gospel.
Till today the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives are covered with ancient olive trees, some of which are reckoned to be old enough to have heard Jesus’ final words of prayer, “nevertheless, not my will, but thy will, be done”, Luke 22:42. Three times Jesus prayed for “this cup (to) pass from me”, but it was not to be. After His Agony, Temple guards appeared, led by Judas Iscariot who approached to kiss Him. Luke’s Gospel continues that Jesus said, “Judas betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?”. Then the Roman soldiers seized Jesus while the disciples fled.
Legend tells that when Christ was finally crucified the trees of all the world shed their leaves – except the Olives. When its brothers and sisters came to ask why, the olive said, “Yes, you all shed your leaves in sadness, but next spring they will grow anew. I was pierced to the heart, and there is in me now a sorrow that will never heal”. And so it is that the olive tree does indeed die from the inside outward.
The Church of the Agony
The original 4th century sanctuary was enlarged some 800 years later by the Crusaders and renamed St. Saviors. The present Church of the Agony, completed in 1924, is one of Jerusalem’s most beautiful. The Four Evangelists stand atop columns by its arched portico. Over their heads a magnificent mosaic depicts Jesus offering his suffering to God above, who sits holding Greek letters. This captures the Words of Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord”.
Inside, dim light is reflected on dark blue cupolas dotted with stars representing the night sky. The Stone of the Agony dominates the floor of the church, while its walls are adorned with scenes of that fateful night.
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. … And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Matthew 26:36-39
This page is part of the book The Holy Land of JesusShare this page with your friends
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