The garden of Gethsemane was an olive grove; the name Gethsemane means ‘oil press’. It was located on the slopes of the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem. Jesus and his disciples would often go there to pray; so it must have been a quiet and peaceful place, and apparently, ancient olive trees still stand there today.
After taking the Last Supper, and Judas slipping away from them, Jesus gave the remaining disciples explicit details of what was soon to happen; he also gave them a new commandment to love one another as he had loved them.
They then went to visit the garden of Gethsemane as Jesus wanted to pray. He took himself away from his disciples and went to pray quietly, asking them to keep watch.
He prayed to his father in heaven to release him from the trial he faced. Jesus knew it would be terrible, but he also knew that it needed to happen to fulfil what had been prophesied in the scriptures. So he concluded his prayers by saying, not my will, but yours be done. He prayed the same prayer three times, while a battle raged within him, so ferocious that St Luke’s gospel reports that his sweat turned into beads of blood.
Before the Last Supper, Judas had agreed to hand over Jesus to the chief priests for thirty silver coins. So knowing it was likely that Jesus would be in the garden of Gethsemane later, he guided a crowd of high priests and elders who had paid him the money there.
Judas told them that the one he went over to kiss was the man they were seeking; as he identified Jesus in this manner, the crowd quickly seized him.
The disciples immediately leaped into action, and Peter took out his sword and sliced off the ear of one in the crowd. Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword’(a). He then touched the man’s ear and healed it.
‘All this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled’(b) said, Jesus. The crowd then led him to face a trial by the Sanhedrin, the supreme council and tribunal of the Jewish people.
The disciples were so frightened by what had happened that they all fled for their life.
When Judas, his betrayer, realised the enormity of what he had done he went to the chief priests and elders to give them their money back. But they would not take it, so Judas threw the silver on the floor of the temple and went and hanged himself.
The priests said we cannot take this money into our treasury because it is blood money. So they used the money to buy the potter’s field (a site where potters collected high-quality clay for the production of ceramics) as a place to bury foreigners; the field was then known as the field of blood.
Note; the biblical term ‘potters field’ is in use still today, the Collins Dictionary describes it as; a cemetery where poor or unidentified people are buried at the public expense.
(a)Matthew 26:52 NRSV
(b)Matthew 26:56 NRSVe