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Sunday
Apr152012

See Him in the Second Garden

"Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane", Tiepolo, 1750“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place [on the Mount of Olives] called Gethsemane*....” (Matthew 26: 36...)

Gethsemane (Greek: Γεθσημανἰ, Gethsēmani Hebrew: גת שמנים‎, Gat-Šmânim Aramaic: גת שמני‎, Gath-Šmânê, Gat Šmānê, lit. "oil press") is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem most famous as the place where, according to the gospels, Jesus and his disciples are said to have prayed the night before Jesus' crucifixion.

 

In the Old Testament, we read these words of Messianic prophecy in the Book of Isaiah:

“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD....” (Isaiah 11:1,2)

* * * * * * *

Ancient olive trees today on The Mount of Olives in JerusalemThe olive tree is a fascinating plant. It is practically impossible to kill. Unless the stump and root of the olive tree is physically torn from the earth and burned in a fire, it will probably survive. The olive tree's longevity is legendary. It is not uncommon to hear reports of olive trees living for a thousand years.... and sometimes much longer.

When over time, the olive tree would age and grow less productive, new branches...new life... would naturally spring forth from the tree's lower trunk and roots, and from those “volunteer” shoots the olive production would continue for years.

When Isaiah prophesied about the root and branch (see Isaiah 11:1-2 above), he certainly had the olive tree in mind, and I'm sure he knew that the people of his day would “get the picture”.

For centuries the fruit of the olive tree was the lifeblood of the people surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Nowhere is this made more evidently clear than in the Old Testament. Throughout the ancient Hebrew scriptures, we are reminded of the paramount importance that the olive tree, the olives and olive oil held for the Jewish people and the Hebrew culture.... .

The oil of the olive was a treasured commodity for the Jew. It served. It provided. It sustained.

Israel's prophets, her priests and her kings were always anointed with the purest scented olive oil. The act of anointing with oil set these individuals apart, consecrating and designating them chosen and fit to serve before God and the people. Even the sacred instruments and holy vessels within the temple were anointed with this same consecrating oil . (see Exodus 30: 22-29)

And the anointing oil was always made from the finest (ie., the first-pressed) oil of the olive crop.

Olive oil press

But the oil, of course, was not used only in the sacred temple for anointing purposes:

The oil was also given as a tithe...a sacred offering to God. (Exodus 25:6)
The olive oil was used as fuel. It was burned in lamps. It provided light. It chased the darkness.
The oil was used for cooking.... most notably in making bread. It fed the hungry.
It was used to prepare medicinal ointment and curative salves. It healed.
It was used to make soap. It washed away the dirt. It cleansed.

The oil of the olive was treasured by the Jew. Its varied, pragmatic, everyday usefulness made it a beautiful commodity in the Jewish culture.

When Isaiah spoke prophetically of the “Branch” who would spring from the “root of Jesse”, the word for “Branch” that he used was the Hebrew word “natser”.

Not only was a “natser” a volunteer shoot or branch from an olive tree, but shepherds of that time would cut and then fashion their rods out of these same olive branches. And the good shepherd used his rod to guard and protect his precious flock.

 

Shepherd's rod made from olive branch/ 'netser'

“.....your rod and your staff, they comfort me....you anoint my head with oil.” (Psalm 23)

I find it more than fascinating to realize that the transliteration of the Hebrew word natser is nazar …... from which the words “Nazarene”, “Nazarite” and “Nazareth” surely must have sprung:

“And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:23)

The Nazarene sect was made up of men and women who took a vow of holy consecration. The Nazarites were set apart for sacred purposes in devotion and obedience to Yahweh.

Jesus, the carpenter's son, was a direct descendent of Jesse (through King David). He was, indeed the promised olive Branch, ….the natser..... from the root of Jesse who “came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth”...

* * * * * * *

"The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane", El Greco, (1590's)

“See Him in the Second Garden” 
(Witness....Christ's Gethsemane!)

 

This Anointing Oil of Gladness,
God-poured out in wounded souls...
Death to life, God's love expressing
Prophecy...The Truth foretold.

Noah saw the new day dawning...
Olive Branch and welcome Dove!
Solid ground at last proclaiming;
Witness Everlasting Love!

Now behold! The Jordan River....
There! The Branch and Dove again!
Blessed unction...piercing darkness;
Lamb of God!...Removing sin!

"Baptism of Christ", Murillo, (1655)

Bread of Life...this One Anointed...
Promised Prophet, Priest and King!
Before Time this One Appointed
Olive Branch....and Nazarene!

Light from Him removes the darkness;
In Him now we see The Way.
Set apart ...The Consecrated;
Glory's brightness to display.

From the Root of Jesse branching,
Shepherd's rod...The Word so blessed....
Healing Balm and Comfort Giver....
Peace...Shalom.....Eternal rest!

See Him in the Second Garden
Blood He sweats for you and me....
Grace and Mercy from the Godhead;
Witness... Christ's Gethsemane!

Now the Tongues of Fire burn brightly...
There's no darkness now to fear!
Oil of Pentecost outpouring....
Praise Begotten Volunteer!

Oil expressing Truth within us!
Blessed Hope now guaranteed...
O, sweet oil of understanding!
Branching out from Calvary.

* * * * * * *

“Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: Here is the man whose name is The Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD.” (Zechariah 6: 12)

"If some of the branches have broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. (Romans 11:17)

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1: 13-14)

* * * * * * *

Judeo-Christian tradition understands that the oil of the olive is a picture,... a type.... of the Holy Spirit of God.

Noah, dove and olive branch (2nd century Christian catacomb painting, Rome)