Many things can make us feel defeated. Experiencing a loss, failure, losing a battle, or facing a crisis can make us feel like “this is over” whether it is our livelihood, a relationship, or even life itself.
Jesus, however, shows us we need not feel defeated.
Set on the side of the Mount of Olives towards the Kidron Valley is the Garden of Gethsemane. Planted with olive trees and surrounded by stone walls, it faces the Old City of Jerusalem.
This small area gives a glimpse of what the Mount of Olives looked like two thousand years ago when the hillside was covered with trees bearing olives harvested for their oil.
I visited the Garden on my trip to Jerusalem. After the hustle and bustle of a big city, it felt good to step through the gateway into the peaceful sanctuary of the Garden.
Jesus often escaped to the Garden, too. It was one of his favorite places to spend time with his friends, and with his Father in prayer.
Some of the trees, their trucks thick and gnarled, looked like old people stooping under the hot morning sun. These trees are thought to be from the time of Jesus. The Roman commander Titus ordered the olive trees in this area to be cut down during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. However, he had not destroyed the trees completely.
If the roots of an olive tree are intact, the tree will sprout and grow again. The ancient trees in the Garden of Gethsemane bear witness to this. It amazed me to see such old wood still bearing new shoots. And fresh, young fruit grew on the new shoots. Many branches on these aged trees hung heavy with olives turning from green to black as they ripened. They were nearly ready to be picked and pressed for their precious oil.
Gethsemane means “ a place for pressing oil.”
Perhaps Jesus prayed beneath these time-weathered trees, just before his arrest. In this place, not only did Jesus sense the agony of a painful death, but he anticipated the crushing of his spirit by the weight of the world’s sin. How appropriate that he should be in a place of pressing.
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”Matthew 26:36-38
Those who took Jesus to his death hoped to destroy him completely and the disturbance he had created in their religiously regimented world.
Instead, new life came from Jesus’ death. Just like the olive trees, Jesus was not destroyed.
Isaiah prophesied that a new shoot would rise from the stump of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1). Jesus foretold this event, explaining to his disciples he would die but rise again.
When we accept Jesus’ death as the payment for our sins we too are given new life. Death is never the end. We are promised a full and everlasting life.
With Jesus, we have a future filled with hope.
We may experience our own “pressing” in this life. Yet, because Jesus has conquered all that defeats us, we too can have victory. Jesus said:
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’John 16:33