Grapes, Grain, Olives

Vineyard-6The other day, I was reflecting with a friend on the three main agricultural crops of the ancient world in the Middle East, including grapes, grain, and olives. Grapes have been grown in vineyards for thousands of years. According to Andre’ Domine’, author of Wine, “It is likely that nomadic peoples were fermenting wild grapes and berries into wine as early as 6000-7000 years ago. With the transition to a settled existence, grapevines, along with olives and figs, became the first wild fruits to be cultivated by man (Andre’ Domine’, Wine, Koneman, 2004, 16).” What seems to me the direct hand of God’s providence, the three ancient crops of grapes, grain, and olives, all of which are still cultivated annually in the Middle East, and continue to be staples for people around the world, these big three crops also provide the heart of the Christian faith through the life, ministry and identity of Jesus. Jesus is known as ‘Christ’, which is the Greek for the “anointed One of God.” In the ancient world, kings and priests were anointed with olive oil. The title of our Lord Jesus, “the Christ,” involves olives. Jesus prayed in an olive grove on the night before he was betrayed. The name of this grove, “Gethsemane” is derived from the crushing of the olive, combining two Hebrew words, “gat—to press”, and “shemen—olive oil”. Gethsemane is the place where olives are pressed to extract olive oil. In this same place, Jesus entered God’s olive-press, allowing his life to be overwhelmed with sorrow, pressed, distressed, crushed and ultimately put to death to bring us life. On this same night, he initiates the “Lord’s Supper” with breaking of bread and drinking of the cup. In the Lord’s Supper, the high sacrament of our Lord, we see grain and grape, expressions of the Body of Jesus broken and the Blood of Jesus poured out for the forgiveness of our sins. Grape, grain, and olives: ancient crops at the heart of the life of Jesus and our identity as followers of Jesus Christ.