As many of you know, I went back to Israel this past summer. One of the most visited places in Jerusalem has to be the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s filled with Olive trees as pictured here. On this trip, I discovered that the name Gethsemane means the olive press. We got to see an olive press to understand how it crushes the olives to make oil. That first pressing of the Olive is holy and belongs to God. I think that’s important to know when considering what happened there the night before Jesus was crucified.
Matthew 26 tells us that Jesus went there with the disciples and that grief and anguish came over Him. In verse 38, Jesus said, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me” (GNT). He was being pressed like an olive in that moment. His prayer in the next verse is what I want to focus on today. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want.”
Each of us have times in our lives when we are being crushed by problems and things going on. Just like Jesus, our first instinct is to pray, “Father, if it’s possible, get me out of this!” We cry and we pray for God to help us. But what if God wants to use that time to create a holy offering in your life? What if He is allowing you to be crushed so what’s inside comes out? I’m sure the olives in the press don’t appreciate the stone mill rolling over them, but what comes out is more useful than just the olive by itself.
Jesus understood this. That’s why His next breath was, “Yet not what I want, but what you want.” Instead of praying for God to get us out of the press, ask God that His will be done instead of ours. James 1:12 says, “Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.” Remaining under the press, like Jesus did, is the way to receive the life God promises us.
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Nazareth Village is in the town of Nazareth and recreates what life was like for Jesus here He grew up. We watched them make yarn from the sheep they were raising and learned how they would color it. We watched a man crush wheat on a threshing floor and saw the tools used to separate the wheat from the chaff. We also saw an olive oil press that was very similar to what would have been used in that time.
The guide showed us how they would put the olives in the press, roll the millstone to crush them, take baskets woven from wool to scoop up the olives, set them on top of each other, and let the oil drain. He said this was the purest oil and would have been offered to God. The color was the clearest and would have tasted the best. We would refer to this as virgin olive oil in our world. It’s what comes naturally from crushing the olives.
Next, he showed how they would use a leaver to lift heavy stones and a pole to crush the olives more. This heavy stone pressed the olives harder than the millstone and squeezed out oil. This oil was what was sold and used in every day cooking or for perfume. After that, they would move the baskets a little further in the press where they could exert even greater pressure. The oil that came from this pressing was typically dirty and what was used to put in oil lamps to light houses.
After he showed us this, he reminded us that Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane (translated the olive press) to pray the night He would be handed over to the authorities. In Luke 26:38 Jesus said, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me” (GNT). He was like an olive being crushed in that place. The pressure became so great that by the third time (the hardest press) He went to pray, Luke 22:44 says, “In great anguish he prayed even more fervently; his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
Isaiah 53:5 described what was going on in the Garden of the Olive Press. It says, “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (NLT). Jesus withstood excruciating pain for our sins. The oil (blood) that came out was holy and offered to God for our sins. It was pure and very costly. A price and suffering He willingly endured in order to pay for our sins. A sacrifice so great demands our heart, our soul, and our life.