Day Thirty-eight: Wednesday, July 29th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 27:36-75
Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:
“The Olive Press”
The night he was arrested Jesus was with his disciples on the Mount of Olives. True to its name the Mount of Olives is home to numerous olive trees. It might be of interest to explore the process used to get oil from the olives. After tapping the branches of the tree to get the olives to fall, they would then be picked up carefully so as not to bruise the olives. The pits would be removed, and the olives gently placed in a basin. Then a large millstone would be rolled round and round in a circle over the olives, pressing the oil from the olives. The oil would flow into a container and the crushed pulp into a basket. This first pressing was the purest oil and was used mainly for lamps, cosmetics and holy anointing. The second pressing was for the crushed pulp. (With thanks to Bible History Online, “Ancient Olive Press”)
Gethsemane is a garden on the Mount of Olives. It is in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus makes his anguished prayer, his prayer that both asks for the Father to remove the cup he will face, and his prayer that ultimately yields to the Father by saying, “May your will be done.” The name Gethsemane means “Oil Press, or Olive Press”. As Matthew describes Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, can you see the large millstone of the olive press bearing down upon our precious Lord.
- Jesus began to be sorrowful and troubled (26:37)
- Jesus said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (26:38)
- Jesus fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” (26:39)
The millstone continues to press upon him as his prayer ends.
- Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. (26:49)
- All the disciples desert him and flee (26:56)
- Peter denies him three times. (26:69-75)
- The high priest tore his clothes and charged Jesus with blasphemy. (26:65)
- Everyone present at his mock trial proclaimed, “He is worthy of death.” (26:66)
All of these actions might be regarded as the first pressing. Remember the second pressing? The second pressing is when the pulp is crushed. All of the actions in Matthew 26 might be regarded as the first pressing. The actions we will read tomorrow in Matthew 27 can serve as the second pressing, where the pulp is crushed.
Through the first pressing Jesus remains faithful. Through the first pressing Jesus arrives at the place where he can pray to the Father, “Your will be done.” Through the first pressing Jesus will say twice how through his suffering the scriptures will be fulfilled.
The second pressing is when the pulp is crushed. It is no wonder people who survey the wondrous cross with somber and reverent hearts have connected the words from Isaiah 53 to the suffering and death of Jesus.
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrow,
Yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
With the image of the Olive Press fresh in our minds our Savior now prepares to be crushed. There is much for us to contemplate as our reading for today begins with these words, “Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane…”
Consider these powerful words about the way Jesus responds during his arrest. “The way of nonviolence, non-retaliation, love of enemies, is to be pursued to the end. What Jesus has taught, he lives out, at the cost of his life. Just as he practiced the prayer he taught his disciples, so also he practices non-retaliatory self-giving. Violence is self-destructive and futile, resulting only in a vicious spiral of violence. The sword is a symbol not only of mob violence or self defense, but also of government itself. Jesus represents a redefinition of kingship; the way of God’s kingdom is to absorb evil rather than inflict it, and bring the spiral finally to an end.” (Boring, The New Interpreter’s Bible, Matthew, p. 477)