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March 31, 2012 by William H. Scarle, Jr.

Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Passover on Friday Jesus spent teaching at the Temple.  There were porches surrounding the outer courts of Herod’s Temple where the rabbis gathered their students for teaching sessions.  The Gospels record much of the teaching Jesus shared with his Disciples during these two days prior to Passover, but we will proceed to Thursday, which was a very busy day for the apostolic band.

It was important to Jesus to eat Passover with his followers prior to his crucifixion.  A house had to be chosen within the city walls in which they would share this celebration of deliverance.  Jewish law required that the lamb be sacrificed at the Temple and eaten within the camp, that is, within the walls of Jerusalem.  Otherwise Jesus would certainly have celebrated the meal at the home of Lazarus with his good friends.  The house they chose was likely the home of Mary of Jerusalem, the mother of John Mark, the writer of the second Gospel.  There is a seemingly unconnected note in Mark’s Gospel (26:51) about a young lad who followed the Disciples to Gethsemane.   It is not found in the other accounts, and the assumption is that young Mark followed the Apostles from his home on the south western hill of Jerusalem now called Mount Zion.

The fact that a home was found within the city walls is a clear indication that this meal was a Passover Seder.  Luke gives us the most detailed account mentioning the first of the four cups used in the Seder.  The final cup, the cup of Redemption, became, for Christians, the Communion meal in combination with the afikomen, or final eating of the unleavened bread.  Matthew and Mark also note the singing of the Hallel as they depart for Gethsemane.

The walk from the home of Mary of Jerusalem to the Garden of Gethsemane took the Disciples down the south western hill, across the Kidron Valley and up the slopes of the Mount of Olives.  They did not proceed to their headquarters at Bethany because Passover had begun at sunset Thursday evening and was considered a Sabbath.  Travel was restricted by Jewish law on a Sabbath, and Bethany was further than a Sabbath’s Day journey allowed.  It is quite probable that the spot they chose to spend the night was a familiar location which the group had used previously.  Judas certainly knew where to find them.

Gethsemane in Hebrew means “oil press,” or a press for extracting the olive oil.  John tells us it was a garden, and we may conclude it was a protected area where the olives were gathered and processed for their oil.

Jesus and his followers would have arrived at Gethsemane late at night.  From there he was arrested, taken to the house of Caiaphas, then to the council chamber of the Temple, then to Pilate at Herod’s palace, then to Antipas at the Hasmonean Palace, then back to Pilate and finally to Golgotha for crucifixion.  Jesus was on the cross by nine o’clock in the morning of Passover.  It should be clear from the Gospel accounts that these entire proceedings were an orchestrated affair by a small group of power elite from the Jerusalem Temple political structure.  Jesus was on the cross before the people of the city were even awake after a long night of Passover celebration.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at