The day before Good Friday, before Jesus was betrayed by Judas and tortured and crucified by the Roman occupiers, he prepared a meal for his disciples instituting the sacrament of Holy Communion and then spent the night wrestling In the Garden.
This popular painting of Jesus In the Garden by Heinrich Hofmann hardly captures the crushing agony Jesus experienced. It was a night of wrestling before the cosmic battle to conquer death.
“And he went out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” . . . And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22: 39 ff)
The Garden of Gethsemene is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. In Hebrew the word Gethsemane means “olive press.” I wanted to paint the ironic gravity of Jesus’ night of prayer In the Garden of crushing. I painted his body in the shape of an olive. He was pressed hard and his sweat like great drops of blood spilled to the ground.
The photo to the left was taken at the Garden of Gethsemene. The baskets of olives are being pressed to obtain the oil.
(The color of the fluid from the baskets of olives is a dark red. This color remains until the particulate matter has settled leaving the pure olive oil on top.)
On Christ’s back is a dead olive tree which foreshadows the cross. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness,” is the text from Hebrews 9:22, scrawled across his back.
Levitical laws forbade the eating of blood, “. . . for the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” Jesus knew this law, and he instituted the “last supper” with his disciples before they went to the garden. He said, “‘Take eat; this is my body.’ And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'” This sacrament is the celebration of The New Covenant of Christ’s blood, the sacrificial Pascal Lamb!
As illustrated in my installation below, when the people of God when held captive in Egypt, they were commanded to kill a lamb and with a branch of hyssop smear its blood on the lintels of their doorways. The angel of death would see and “pass over” their houses.
Be Lifted Up O Ancient Doors, and the King of Glory Shall Come In
installation at Grace Center Gallery 2004
The Sacrifice 20 x 30 oil and mixed media on canvas
“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.”