The word “Gethsemane” literally means “the place of the olive press.” Olive oil was essential to life in ancient Israel, and the way that it was produced was by putting the harvested and pitted olives into a great big stone trough and then rolling another enormous stone back and forth over them, crushing them and extracting their oil. The Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus went to pray on the night that He was betrayed was an olive grove, and there would have been just such a press nearby. The symbolism is obvious.
Jesus’ “crushing hours,” the place He went to struggle with the weight of doing God’s will, was the place of an olive press. This was a time of real testing and a place of real struggle for Christ. “My soul is very sorrowful,” He told his disciples, “even to death” (Matthew 26:38), as He begged them to remain there and watch with Him. “Abba, Father,” He prayed, “all things are possible to thee, remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:36). And in a detail that only appears in some of the ancient manuscripts that we have of the Gospel of Luke – “being in agony, Jesus prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to upon the ground” (22:44). It’s a powerful word picture. Just like the oil being extracted from the olives through crushing in the press in that garden where Jesus prayed, Luke was telling us that the life of Jesus was being extracted from Him through the crushing experience of wrestling with God’s will.
What God the Father asked of His only begotten Son that night long ago in the garden was a unique part of His work of redemption. This will never be a part of our experience. We can’t do what He did. We can only receive the benefit of it by faith. But the Gethsemane experience of heaviness, that feeling of the moral and spiritual weight of the choices that are constantly in front of us, that’s always going to be a part of our experience as Christians, and Jesus knew it, which is why I think that the very first thing He said to His disciples when they got to the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His testing was – “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (22:40).
The Greek word translated “temptation” here is a word that means “to test,” “to try,” “to prove.”
It may be used in a positive sense as in the case of Job, who said in the midst of his trail, “When the Lord has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (23:10). Or it may be used in a negative sense: to tempt toward evil. (Ron Ritchie)
And the point is that this is going to be our experience as followers of Jesus Christ. We’re going to find ourselves in our own Gethsemanes constantly. Every single day is crowded with choices great and small, and as Christians we’re going to make these choices acutely aware that there is always more than just one will that’s pulling at us. There’s that adversarial something that crouches at the door of our lives just waiting to spring (Genesis 4:7). There’s our own will, what it is that we think we want for ourselves. And then there’s the Lord who has a vital interest in everything we think, say and do as His disciples. Paul told the Corinthians that the love of Christ “constrained” him (2 Corinthians 5:14). The word that Paul used for “constrain” is a word that literally means to “press hard together,” and suddenly we’re back in Gethsemane, at the crushing place. Faithfulness is all about this struggle of wills. Every decision we make as Christians is made in the push and pull of these forces. We will constantly feel the weight of them, and it’s always going to hard. There’s simply no escaping it if Jesus is your Lord.
When we say “yes” to Jesus when he asks to be the Lord of our lives and worlds, Gethsemane becomes our home address. It’s where we’re going to live the rest of our lives. It’s in this crushing place of the contest of wills that we are going to find ourselves tested and changed, and through the experience, it’s where we’ll discover the best ways to cooperate with the God who’s will is one day going to be done on earth as it is in heaven. And it all starts when, with Jesus in the place of the olive press where lots of different forces all seek to master us, we can pray – “Not what I will, but what will… not what I want, but what you want…” DBS +