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The Gethsemane Garden

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Secrets Under the Garden of Gethsemane

Location – At the base of the Mount of Olives

Map Coordinates - 31.779582, 35.239600

Merged Gospels story - 265

This is one of the most popular sites in all of Jerusalem, and our live Octagon Tour groups get to experience it all. The Garden of Gethsemane is where the Passion of the Christ began – in the Kidron valley at the base of the Mount of Olives. During the first century this entire mountain was a vast grove of olive trees. The current garden is a special place, because this was where Jesus’ three inner-circle Apostles, Peter, John and James, slept while Jesus prayed just a stone’s throw away. It is believed that the Apostles prayed somewhere within this fenced area, where you see eight gnarled olive trees. 


The Biblical Story.


On the night that Jesus was arrested He left many of His followers in a cave about 300 feet to the north. He walked to this spot, where He asked Peter, John and James to pray. He then went a little farther south to pray alone on the bedrock that is currently exposed on the floor of the Basilica of the Agony, which you can see nearby. Jesus returned from this rock three times, asking these Apostles to stay awake and pray with Him, but their eyes were heavy, and they kept falling asleep.


The Rock of the Apostles.


In the walkway, on the southeast corner of the garden, there is a rock. This is called the Rock of the Apostles, allegedly near the place where Peter, James and John slept.

At one time, next to this rock, there was a marble column called the Kiss of Judas, a pillar that commemorated the moment that Judas kissed the Lord on the cheek. That column has since been moved to the west side of the road directly behind the Basilica of the Agony.


The Trees.


Scientists have determined that the eight olive trees in this garden were not here on the night of Jesus’ passion. The first-century historian, Flavius Josephus, reports that during the Jewish revolt of 70 AD, the Roman legion cut down all of the trees around Jerusalem to build siege towers, and they probably harvested the wood from this area to use for campfires. They even built crosses to crucify the Jewish rebels who attempted to escape the city. According to Josephus, about 500 Jews were killed each day of that siege.

In the year 2012 a radiocarbon study of three of the trees in this garden revealed that they are no more than 900 years old. DNA testing also concluded that all of them originated as cuttings from the same tree. According to a 1982 study, the roots of these trees are about 2300 years old. When olive trees are cut down the roots typically grow new trees, so it’s likely that the roots in this garden were here during the time of Jesus.

Two Gethsemane Gardens

Across the road from the public garden is a private garden, also in the custody of the Franciscans. These trees are much younger than those in the public garden, and at this location there used to be a monastery, built by the Crusaders sometime after 1099 AD, called the Abbey of Saint Mary of the Valley of Jehoshaphat (another name for the Kidron Valley). However, in the year 1187 AD this church was destroyed by the man who drove the Crusaders out of the Holy Land, the Muslim general, Saladin. 

Monks typically build charnel houses to store the remains of their deceased residents, and here that room is in the private Gethsemane Garden. This current charnel house is the only remaining surface room of this monastery. The Tomb of the Virgin (underground) is the other remaining remnant of this monastery.


Here I am in the private Gethsemane Garden discovering a mass grave of monks who used to live in the Abbey of Saint Mary of the Valley of Jehoshaphat.

Thy Will be Done.


Jesus was the only man in history who was born to die. And yet in Gethsemane's garden He prayed that His Father would grant Him clemency from this death sentence.

But notice that Jesus never lost sight of His destiny, and He ended His prayer by saying, “Not My will, but Thy will be done”. Where have we heard these words before? They are part of the Lord’s Prayer which Jesus taught to His disciples four months earlier on the lofty summit of this same mountain. Notice that after teaching His disciples to pray, “Thy will be done”, Jesus is now praying this same prayer by Himself, in the valley of pain and torment.

Prayers that are prayed in the valleys of life often sound more like the first part of Jesus’ Gethsemane prayer. That is, “Father, deliver me from this circumstance.” But as we are seeking a physical solution to our problems, we must, as Jesus did, surrender ourselves to God’s perfect will for our lives, whatever it is, and however unpredictable it may be.

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