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The Garden of Gethsemane.

The creation of a new idea, which lies at the heart of Christianity.

ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane is another place which the Christian visitor to Israel should not miss.

Here, on a rocky outcrop of the Mt. of Olives, the mountain where by tradition the kings of Israel were anointed, Jesus agonised over His kingship, which would bring salvation for the sins of mankind. But He is aware that only a spiritual being could be the saviour of mankind and for this He would have to forego His body, His physical existence. He declares his readiness for this painful event by the words “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.”

Previously, in the Room of the Last Supper, He had taught His disciples that they should eat bread, in remembrance of His body, which, after all is only the container of His spirit, as the cup is the container of the wine and the wine symbolises the spirit. By saying, in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, remove this cup from me” He is virtually saying to God that He should take away His body.

In the Room of the Last Supper, Jesus said that the wine represents His blood. This fits well with the prohibition against eating the blood of an animal, because “the soul of the animal is in the blood” Leviticus 17:10-12. Blood, therefore represents soul, which is another word for spirit, but it is forbidden to eat it, therefore wine is chosen to represent the spirit. Therefore, when Jesus tells His disciples to drink the wine, He means that they should remember that the human being consists of both flesh and spirit.

Jesus, like every Jew, obviously carried out the custom of blessing the name of God on the bread and wine, a custom carried out every Sabbath, three times, at the three Sabbath meals, as well as on festivals, such as Passover. So in telling His disciples to drink the wine and eat the bread, He isn’t doing anything contrary to Judaism, in fact He’s instructing them to be observant Jews.

His interpretation of the custom, however is new and contrary to Judaism; the custom of eating bread and drinking wine, in Judaism, is in remembrance of the exodus from Egypt. It is a reminder that both the physical body of the Jew and the spiritual soul were redeemed from Egypt.

The idea that the body needs to die so that the soul can be free, is a new idea, which comes to the fore in the events in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Christian idea that salvation can only come about through physical sacrifice is a new idea, not acceptable to Judaism.

Leon Gork. Tour guide in Israel

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