As Jesus and the disciples entered Gethsemane He became sorrowful and troubled. The one who the disciples had walked with, their friend, their leader, the one who had turned their world upside down was in anguish. I cannot help but think how this would have been disconcerting for the disciples. Jesus was always their rock, He always had an answer, He was afraid of nothing. Yet He was now clearly disturbed.
Jesus prays three times, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” Matthew 26:39. His prayers were with increasing anguish, to the point that his sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). The cup He must drink was the weight of the world’s sin, He knew the torment He must carry and saw what lay ahead, yet each time He submitted to the Father.
It is not an accident that Jesus was in Gethsamene. The name is made up of two Hebrew words, gat, which means “a place for pressing oil (or wine)” and shemanim, which means “oils”. It was a place of pressing, of crushing.
In extracting olive oil there are three stages, the first stage is the crushing of the olives into a paste. The olives were placed in a stone trough and typically an animal, usually a donkey, would walk around and the mill stone would roll over the olives forming them into a paste. It is from this crushing that the finest olive oil is extracted. The second stage involves the paste being put into baskets or bags and a large stone was placed on top of them, the olive oil from the pressing was used for medicine. However, there is still oil to be extracted and further weights would be used. The olive oil from this final pressing was used for soap.
Is it a coincidence that Jesus prayed in anguish in the place of the oil press? Or that he prayed three times which stirs up the images of the three stages of pressing olives? I don’t think so.
He was crushed, and from his crushing came the finest oil, oil that was used for anointing. Jesus is the anointed one. His crushing paved the way that we too could know the anointing through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. The first pressing released oil for medicine. It is through Jesus that we receive healing. And the last pressing released oil for soap. Jesus death paid the price for our cleansing.
But talking about it like this seems to make it quite matter of fact and ignores the torment that the crushing and the pressing brought upon him. Jesus didn’t turn his face away in the face of trial, even though He knew what was before Him. He knew that His being crushed and pressed down until there was nothing left would pay the price for our sin so we could be redeemed, healed, washed and have eternal life.
And as brothers and sisters of our Lord I find that we too are crushed in life, pressed down. Yet we know the one who has gone before us and has made the way. There is comfort in our suffering for there is one who has been through worse. It is in these moments we need to remember that Jesus was not only full of joy but the man of sorrows, familiar with suffering and familiar with pain (Isaiah 53). There is comfort knowing that in the dark night of the soul, in our Gethsemane’s, we are not alone, we have a high priest who knows our weaknesses (Heb 4:15). His life became an offering for sin so we could be free, that freedom can also be yours.