Olive oil is a part of everyday life in Israel and it has many uses from practical to symbolic. As you walk the land of Israel you often see the shimmering leaves of the olive tree, some thousands of years old. The oil from these trees is a part of almost every meal eaten in the land, and the and that same oil has served ceremonial purposes throughout Israel’s history. We see the Priests being anointed with this oil in Leviticus, a symbol of the priesthood. Later we find David being anointed with oil, marking him as King. The use of olive oil to signify someone set apart for special work by God by anointing is part of the culture. Even the word Messiah means anointed. And so we should expect to see Jesus anointed, identifying him as Messiah, as priest and king.
In Matthew 26 after celebrating the Passover meal with is disciples we find Jesus and the eleven leaving the upper room and walking across the Kidron Valley to a place called Gethsemane (Gat-Sh’manim”). In John 18 we are told this is a place where there was a grove of tress. And if you were to visit this spot today you would still find a grove of olive tress. For the name Gethsemane means “olive press”. And it is not a coincidence that it is this garden that Jesus takes his disciples to in his last hours.
And as we read Matthew 26, we find Jesus in the garden, pleading with the father for the cup to be removed. In Luke ‘s account we find Jesus in great anguish, praying so intensely that his sweat became great drops of blood falling to the ground. This is the pressing, just like with olives, that produces the anointing oil. But before the oil, the olives must be crushed.
For Gethsemane is the place we find Jesus anointed. It is here he is marked as Messiah, as priest and as king. But it is not with the oil from the olive trees under which he prayed. No, he is anointed with the blood he sweat as he was crushed in the garden of the olive press.