By Becky Harling, Crosswalk.com
The Mount of Olives is one of the most fascinating places found in Scripture. Regarded as sacred, it is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. Horror and hope collide on the Mount of Olives. There, Jesus prayed before His betrayal and crucifixion, however, it is also from there that Jesus triumphantly ascended into Heaven (Luke 22:39-44, Acts 1:11). The Mount of Olives also holds the hope of His victorious second coming (Zechariah 14:4). It is a sacred Biblical location that still exists today and is central to God’s plan of redemption.
Where Is the Mount of Olives?
The Mount of Olives is a mountain range that is made up of three peaks located on the Eastern border of the city of Jerusalem. The highest peak is 2,684 feet and offers a scenic view of Old Jerusalem. The Eastern side of the slope is at the beginning of the Judean Desert, and it separates the Temple Mount in present Jerusalem from the desert.
The Mount of Olives was named for the olive groves that lined the hillside. To this day, there is an olive tree over 2,000 years old on the hillside. It has also been called “The Mount of Anointment” because of the pressing of olives for the oil that was used in the anointing of Kings. It is significant and symbolic that Jesus likely knelt under the covering of olive trees and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, located on the Mount of Olives right before His betrayal. The King of all Kings being pressed so that you and I might know His rule in our lives.
Many Jewish people throughout history have requested to be buried on the Mount of Olives. The Jewish people believe that when the Messiah comes, He will come on the Mount of Olives, and therefore those buried there will have a front-row seat to the Messiah. To this day, many graves line the hillside.
Millions of visitors visit the Mount of Olives every year in Israel. As a visitor, you get a sense of the scene where Jesus prayed. I have been there several times and it is a profound experience! As countless visitors visit the Mount of Olives every year, there is a resurgence of hope. There in the garden setting, they are reminded of Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. They are reminded that we have hope because of what Christ did. Surrounded by olive trees that continue to grow to this day, they are reminded of the price Jesus paid as our King and Messiah.
What Happened on the Mount of Olives in the Bible?
A thousand years before Christ, King David was forced out of Jerusalem and rejected as King by his own son, Absalom. He left Jerusalem, crossed the Kidron Valley (2 Samuel 15:23), and made his way up the Mount of Olives. As David climbed the mountain, He wept and mourned for himself and the betrayal he experienced but also for His own sinfulness (2 Samuel 15:30). Years, later, the Mount of Olives was central to the life of Christ.
Jesus taught on the Mount of Olives and often went there to pray. He, like David, was rejected in Jerusalem. After the triumphal entry, He crossed the Kidron Valley and climbed the Mount of Olives the day before His betrayal and arrest. He wept, prayed, and mourned not over His own sinfulness but over our sinfulness, as He considered the cross before Him (Luke 22). Later, after the resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:11).
5 Significant Things to Know About the Mount of Olives in the Bible
1. The Mount of Olives is a place of fulfilled prophecies. The Mount of Olives is significant because several Messianic prophecies were fulfilled there. The triumphal entry predicted in the Old Testament, took place there. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey (Psalm 118:22, 25-26, Daniel 9:25, Zechariah 9:9, 16, and Matthew 21). Jesus taught from the Mount of Olives, “The Olivet Discourse” prophesying on His second coming (Matthew 24-25). The betrayal and abandonment of Jesus that was prophesied in the Old Testament happened on the Mount of Olives (Psalm 41:9, Zechariah 13:7, Matthew 26:31). Jesus’s ascension also took place thereafter His resurrection (Acts 1:9-12). He ascended into heaven leaving the disciples with the prophetic promise that He would return.
The fulfilled prophecies remind us that we can trust Scripture. It is reliable. The prophecies about the Messiah all were fulfilled and similarly, the prophecies about His second coming will be fulfilled.
2. The Mount of Olives is a place of prayer. After the last supper, Scripture tells us that, “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives” (Luke 22:29). The phrase, “As usual” shows us that the Mount of Olives was a place Jesus often went to pray. It was a place where Jesus poured out His heart to God the Father.
This is a beautiful reminder that in your life and mine we need sacred spaces where we go often to pray. If Jesus had special places where He went to pray and commune with the Father, it makes sense that you and I need these places in our lives as well.
3. The Mount of Olives is a place of hope. Both Jews and Christians alike view the Mount of Olives as a sacred place of hope. The Jewish people believe that the Messiah will come to Israel on the Mount of Olives. As believers, when we look to the Mount of Olives, we are reminded of the hope we have in Christ. The Messiah has come. He is the source of our redemption. However, we also have the hope of His second coming when He will right every wrong. Jesus gave the promise to His disciples as He ascended into heaven that He would return. The Prophet Zechariah prophesied that Jesus would return there on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).
The Mount of Olives provides the reminder that just as the olive was pressed for oil to anoint kings, our King was pressed so that He would one day rule as everlasting King.
4. The Mount of Olives is a place of redemption. Jesus suffered not only on the cross but also in the garden of Gethsemane. As He wrestled with what lay ahead, the price for our sin was huge (Luke 22:39-45). It was a prayer of great suffering and yet, as we look to what was accomplished by Christ’s obedience, we see the glory of redemption unfold. The beauty of the forgiveness of our sins.
The Mount of Olives reminds us that Christ has paid the price for our redemption. When we feel hurt or betrayed, we can look to the Mount of Olives and remember, that Jesus was hurt and betrayed as well. God the Father redeemed His suffering, and He will redeem ours as well.
5. The Mount of Olives is a place of victory. Just as Jesus rose from the dead and ultimately ascended into heaven, the prophet Zechariah reminds us that, one day, Christ’s “feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the mount of Lives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley” (Zechariah 14:4), and that one day “the LORD will be king over all the earth” (Zechariah 14:9). Our king, Jesus has won the victory. He is a triumphant King who will return just as He said and rule over all of heaven and earth.
The Mount of Olives reminds us that just as our Messiah came as the Old Testament prophets predicted, so he will come again to rule in righteousness and justice.
As you and I consider the Mount of Olives – all it symbolizes in Scripture and all the events that took place there – it is a good reminder that you and I need sacred places in our lives. We need places where we remember how God has fulfilled His promises to us, special places where we go regularly to pray and meet with God, places of hope where we are reminded to trust God with our futures, places of redemption where we remember how God has redeemed even the evil in our lives and turned it for good and places of victory where we remember, Christ is victorious! He has overcome the evil one and He will reign eternally.
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Authentic. Passionate. Funny and Biblical all describe Becky Harling. A best-selling author, Becky is a popular speaker at conferences, retreats, and other events. She is the author of 11 books including, How to Listen so Your Kids Will Talk, Psalms for the Anxious Heart, and The Extraordinary Power of Praise, releasing June 2021. Becky is a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team and a seasoned Bible teacher. You can connect with Becky at www.beckyharling.com, www.harlingleadership.com, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/beckyharlingministries, Twitter, @beckyharling, or on Instagram at Becky Harling