As your pastor preaches this Palm Sunday, there will no doubt be some reference to the Mount of Olives.
The road that connects Bethany and Bethphage to Jerusalem passes right over the Mount of Olives.
It was on this road (just after the crest of the hill and coming and down into the Kidron Valley to Jerusalem) where the Triumphal Entry of Palm Sunday took place.
The view of Jerusalem from this spot is said to be stunning, particularly in the morning. The Temple Mount (Jesus’ destination on Palm Sunday) and most of Jerusalem is clearly visible.
In fact, right after he tells the Pharisees that if his disciples were silent the very stones would cry out in praise, he stops along this road and weeps over Jerusalem‘s coming fate. (Luke 19:41-44)
The Mount of Olives is also mentioned several times in the Old Testament.
It was probably on that same road, or very near it, that David fled Jerusalem barefoot and weeping when Absalom took control of Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 15:30) It was on the Mount of Olives that Solomon set up places to worship the horrible false gods Chemosh and Molech. (1 Kings 11:7) And Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord depart from Jerusalem and come to rest on this same place. (Ezekiel 11:23)
The Mount of Olives was clearly a favorite place of Jesus as he visited it three times in the week before his crucifixion.
We’ve already touched on the Triumphal Entry, and there was also the “Olivet Discourse” as described in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In it, Jesus describes to his disciples what will take place at the end of the age when he returns. Mark 13:3 tells us that they were sitting on the Mount of Olives looking at the Temple across the valley when this took place. Jesus also told them the parables of the wise and faithful servant, the five wise virgins, and the good servant who uses his talents wisely.
And lastly, we all remember the prayer, betrayal, and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane—which is also on the Mount of Olives.
But that’s not the last mention of the Mount of Olives in the Bible, because this is also where Jesus ascended into heaven. Another one of my favorite scenes from the Bible is described in Acts 1: 10-11.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (NIV)
(Apparently, the disciples needed angelic intervention to tell them they could stop staring up into the sky at this time.)
But here’s the thing:
Not only is Jesus coming back in the same way he left, he is coming back to the very same place!
Zechariah 14:4 describes his return at the Second Coming:
On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. (NIV)
Because of this prophecy, Jews have sought to be laid to rest on the Mount of Olives for over 3,000 years. They believe the resurrection of the dead will begin in this place. There are currently over 70,000 tombs on the side of the Mount of Olives facing the Kidron Valley and Jerusalem.
Geologists have long known that a fault line extends north and south along Israel’s eastern border. The valley formed by this rift holds the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, and the Sea of Galilee.
But it wasn’t until 1964 when construction crews begin excavating to build The Seven Arches Hotel on the Mount of Olives that it was discovered that there is indeed a fault line running east to west right through the Mount of Olives.
But the best news is not that we know where Jesus will return, but that we know he will return.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ESV