This is an article written by Father Michael Birdsong. It was posted on http://www.midsouthdiocese.org/ as well as sent out by email. This article is posted by request of the author who is a regular contributor on this blog. JZ Holloway
Over the past few months I have been trying my best to rationalize why we go through some of the things we as Christians do. We all love those times of refreshing but what about the hard times? The world will tell us at times that the things that don’t kill us will make us stronger. Well, it really doesn’t make it easier does it? During these times I try and remember an olive, yep an olive. Such a little fruit but so many uses, yet the process that the olive goes through for a greater good reminds me of the things we endure at times. This is also when I remember the word, “Gethsemane.”
Christians are familiar with the word “Gethsemene” because it is the name of the garden where Jesus was taken into custody the night before His Crucifixion.
In Hebrew, the word Gethsemene means “olive press.”
In its natural state the olive is good for food but, its purpose could be so much more. For that purpose to come to pass the oil of the olive has to be extracted and a time of crushing has to take place. The olives oil in Biblical times was burned in lamps, served as a preserving agent, healing agent, as well for cooking. It had great value in daily life.
The process used to extract olive oil was a laborious one. Whole olives were put into a circular stone basin in which a millstone sat. A donkey or other animal was then harnessed to the millstone and walked in a circle, rolling the stone over the olives and crushing them.
The cracked olives were scooped up into burlap bags, which were then stacked beneath a large stone column–a Gethsemene. The enormous weight forced the precious oil to drip from the fruit into a groove and on into a pit at the base of the gethsemene, from which it was collected.
We must receive the picture here that the olive while in natural form is good for food it must be crushed for the better good. Many people in the body of Christ have gone through, or are going through times of crushing. It is through these times that the will of the Father can be performed and revealed in our lives so the better good can be performed in our lives. This is why St. Paul tells us to take joy in our trials and tribulations, knowing that it produces patience, patience character and character hope.
We can see in Matthew’s account of the Gospel a glimpse into the last night before the crucifixion of Christ.
14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. 16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.
33 Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”
Here in this chapter Jesus is celebrating the feast of Passover with his disciples, instituting his own Passover feast and telling them that the time has come and his heart is feeling heavy of the sacrifice that he is about to face. Right away Judas leaves to betray him, Peter is about to deny him after boldly stating that he would die first he is now about to find himself totally alone.
It is now that Jesus finds himself as we would see it a dreadful place called Gethsemene, the oil press. Everything that could stand in the way of the will of the Father is about to be removed from the life of Christ. It is in this place that we can almost hear the words of Christ as he prays.
38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”
39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
Jesus is speaking here of the Suffering that was about to take place. He would partake of the cup of wrath and suffering for all mankind. That we may inherit eternal life and once more have right standing with the Father.
42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, *if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”
We must understand that Christ while fully God made flesh, he also was fully man. He wept, cried, mourned, laughed, danced and loved. Jesus knew that this suffering would be tremendous. That is why he asked if there be any other way. But his love for the Father, his love for the world, he remembered his words there is no other way to the Father except through me that strengthened him for this suffering. The greater good for all mankind.
Saints, we are no different. We mourn, cry, laugh, dance sing just as everyone else and just as everyone else we go through times of the oil press. But remember we have the same strength that caused Christ to say, “Nevertheless.” We have the very presence of God the Father living in us.
The Apostle Paul viewed our life as a great race that we all must finish. We have a choice in that race, to quit or finish. I challenge you today to face these times of pressing and know that he who has began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. St. Paul wrote to Timothy the following:
2 Timothy 4
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
I have finished the race St. Paul stated. I have stayed the course. I have kept the faith knowing that it is Christ in me that is the hope of glory. Through shipwrecks, beatings, left for dead, being in prison and betrayals it was Christ in him that sustained him.
I leave you with these words and may we finish well.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”* 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.