Matthew 26:36 (ESV)
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.”
Do we know where Gethsemane is located? Is it reliable to know where Jesus spent one of the most important nights in human history? The answer to both of these questions is: yes!
In Matthew, Mark and Luke we only know the disciples went to a place called Gethsemane. The word Gethsemane literally means “oil press.” Many oil presses were in caves. The temperature in caves allowed for better olive oil production. Caves also provided great natural protection from the elements.
There is only one cave in the area where people have said for 2,000 years Jesus prayed on that amazing evening before he went to the cross. The cave of Gethsemane is large. Excavations in 1956-1957 revealed the mouth of the cave was over 16 feet wide. They also found evidence as many as three olive presses were operating inside the cave.
We also know from the Bible that it was a cold night when Jesus prayed at Gethsemane. Mark 14 and John 18 say Peter was warming himself next to a fire later that night. This is important because the disciples likely did not lay down to sleep out in the open under the stars on that night. It gets pretty cold at night in Jerusalem and there’s usually a heavy dew. Having Jesus and the disciples initially laying down to rest inside the cave of Gethsemane makes much more sense.
Next to the cave, however, the garden of Gethsemane has been growing Olive Trees for as long as anyone can remember. Some of the trees in the garden today are among the oldest living things on planet earth. Many of the trees are hollow so they are unable to reliably date the older core of the tree, but they still date to well over a thousand years old!
It is likely Jesus left the disciples sleeping in the cave and then ventured out into the garden of olive trees to pray that the cup would pass from him. These are sacred places on planet earth where you can go and realize the important events of that night which lead to our soul freedom today through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Dear Lord, we are reminded again how important prayer is in our life through Your example. Help us to take the time to pray each day. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.