A little over a year ago, I posted a picture of the East Gate from the Old City. The picture was taken from the Roman Catholic Church of All Nations, which sits on the traditional location of the Garden of Gethsemane. The point was made that from the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus could have easily seen the “multitude of people” coming to arrest him.
Earlier this week, I was talking with Trent and Rebekah Dutton, who have both spent considerable time in Israel. We were talking about the physical geography of the city of Jerusalem. Rebekah wondered if the priests could see the activity in the Garden of Gethsemane from their home.
It is a good question. During the First Century, the wealthy and influential people who lived in Jerusalem lived on the Western Hill. It is called the “Western Hill” because it sat west of the original City of David across the Tyropoeon Valley. So, if the priests’ house was high enough on the hill, it might have a view of the Garden of Gethsemane.
As we were discussing this, I remembered a picture that I took in 2010 from the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu. (That picture is at the top of this blog post. If you are reading this post in an email, then you might need to click on the title to view the post from a web page.) That church sits on the traditional location of the house of Annas and Caiaphas, who were both priests in the First Century. The picture is looking northeast in the direction of the Garden of Gethsemane. You can easily see the golden domes of the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene. That church sits just up the hill from the traditional location of the Garden of Gethsemane.
Matthew, in his gospel, tells us:
And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. – Matthew 26:47
Imagine this same view in the middle of the night. It would be completely dark. Undoubtedly, this “great multitude” would have numerous torches to light their way as they left the city, crossed the Kidron Valley and entered the garden. It is possible that the priests, sitting in their house, could have seen the activity in the garden knowing what was going on.
In addition, after they arrested Jesus, the priests could have probably seen the torches of the multitude coming in their direction as they made their way from the garden to the upper city. They knew He was coming.