By and large, the olive is a happy fruit. Ask a grandchild what the olive is for and they will happily show you their fingers, each digit proudly adorned with an olive. Ask an adult and they will tell you that the olive is for pizza or as a container for hors d’oeuvres. But from a scriptural viewpoint the olive is a great deal more.
The first mention of the olive in scripture is in the book of Genesis. Although to be fair, what the dove brought back to Noah in the ark was an olive leaf, but qualified as proof of life and that the fruit of restoration was already growing. Fast forward to Jesus’ day and olives are valued for their oil in both commerce and worship.
For the worth of the olive to be revealed it must first be pressed. Pressed is a dignified word that means “crush the life out of it”. It is not a happy experience for the olive.
There are three stages to pressing oil from the olive. At the first pressing, the oil that is released is called “extra-virgin” and is used as fuel in the temple lamps of the Menorah. The seven lamp-stands of Revelation Chapter One are fueled by olive oil. There is light in the olive.
What is left in the press is run through a second time, pressed until every drop of oil is released. The oil of the second pressing is often used as medicine by first century physicians. There is healing in the olive.
The third pressing of the olive takes the pasty stuff that is left and forms it into easily held cakes. This is the last function of the happy olive, to be used as soap. There is cleansing in the olive.
As an aside, I will note that the olive, like a human being, is made up of three basic parts. The skin of the olive, the exocarp, is the container that allows for easy handling. The guts of the olive, the mesocarp, is the meat where the oil is stored. Finally, the endocarp, the pit, the seed. This is the part of the olive that if planted in the earth will rise again as a new tree. Born again is a useful analogy.
So let us jump back to the first century where we find Jesus and His disciples taking an after dinner walk on the Mount of Olives. So named for the many olive gardens growing on its flanks. One such garden is named Gethsemane, which means “The Olive Press”. The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus’ words, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.” Simply put, the Most Noble Olive was having a very stressful evening. Roman executions were very public and usually performed on top of a high hill so that they could be seen from all directions. Scripture does not tell us, but I believe that because both Golgotha and the Garden of Gethsemane are high places, you can see one from the other.
What is recorded is that three times Jesus was pressed in that garden, three times He asked His Father, “If it be possible?”, and three times finished with, “Not My will but thy will.” The Gospel of Luke says that, “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Salvation was paid for at the cross, but it was won when the Olive was pressed at Gethsemane.