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The Gethsemane Grotto

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Exploring Jesus' Locker Room

Location – At the base of the Mount of Olives

Map Coordinates - 31.780236, 35.239693

Merged Gospels story - 27

One our live Octagon Tour guests who was once Shaquille O’Neal's basketball coach called this cave Jesus’ locker room - a fitting description for this place.

Judas Iscariot kisses Jesus outside the Grotto of Gethsemane.

Gethsemane Grotto is at the base of the Mount of Olives. This cave is the location of one of the most dramatic stories in the New Testament – the night that Jesus was arrested.

Outside of the Gethsemane Grotto the guards fall backwards when Jesus says, “I AM”.

When people hear the word Gethsemane, they usually think of a garden. But Gethsemane wasn’t a garden. The word actually means olive press, not olive grove. It seems that everyone in Jesus’ time understood that Gethsemane was a cave - a factory for producing olive oil. In fact, the first time that we are aware of anyone using the term “Garden of Gethsemane” was in the twelfth century.

Outside the Gethsemane Grotto Peter cuts off the ear of Malchus, the slave of the high priest

Evidence of the olive press was found where the altar is now. There was a hole in the wall that supported the arm used to hold the lever that pressed the olives.

Outside the Gethsemane Grotto Jesus heals the ear of Malchus.

Just outside this cave there was a large grove of olive trees. Judas, the man who betrayed Jesus, knew that the disciples spent a lot of time here, and so Judas led the Jewish Temple guards here, which means that Jesus was probably arrested just outside the doorway of this cave.

The original mouth of the cave was not the doorway that you see here. It was a much larger opening just to the left of the current doorway as you enter.

Today this cave looks very much like it did 2000 years ago. John 18:18 tells us that it was cold on the night that Jesus was arrested, but this cave was warm and dry. Because this room measures 62 feet by 33 feet, there was a lot of space here.

We know that Jesus met here with His disciples often (see John 18:2). And yet the Bible only records what happened during two of these occasions. Imagine what Jesus might have revealed during all of those times.

Several early historians talk about this cave – Egeria in the fourth century, and Theodosius in the fifth century. In the seventh century the French monk Arculf came here, and he was told by the local believers that Jesus commonly ate with His disciples in this cave (De Locis Sanctis 15.1–3)

The Cistern.

In the back of the cave there is a hole that led down to an ancient cistern - a man-made well that was used in the first century to gather drinking water. For several hundred years later this cistern was converted to a tomb, and many Christian women were buried here. There is a fourth or fifth-century mosaic next to this cistern that says, “Lord, let them rest in peace”.

After inserting our cameras into this cistern, we confirmed that burial benches had definitely been built down there.

In this picture I am inserting a 360° camera down into the cistern/tomb.

As you can see this cistern was definitely converted into a tomb with burial spaces.

The Ceiling.

In this picture I am inserting a 360° camera down into the cistern/tomb.

The stars on the ceiling were painted here during the Crusader era, about 900 years ago. These stars are reminiscent of the night when Jesus was arrested.

Was Nicodemus here?

The Catholic Church is the custodian of this cave, and they teach that something else very important happened here. In the third chapter of the Gospel of John it says that in this room there was a conversation between Jesus, and one of the leaders of the Jews – a man named Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was a secret follower of Jesus. And because this cave was outside the city limits, it would have been very easy for him to meet with Jesus in secret during the night.

If it’s true that Nicodemus met with Jesus here, then it was in this cave where the Son of God unveiled the world’s greatest mystery - the greatest hope for mankind – the promise that everyone who is born from above can enter the Kingdom of God. It was in this room that Jesus said, “You must be born again.”

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