Mount of OlivesMay 24, 2015 in Palestine
Our travels yesterday included a stop at Mt. Scopus and a good look at a first century tomb as Jesus would have been buried in. We took long, winding walk down the Mount of Olives. With thousands of other tourists and pilgrims, vendors and swindlers (not to mention “Jerusalem Taxi” camels), we stopped at the holy sites on the hill including the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane (Church of the Nations), and the church where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. We then headed south from Jerusalem to the egotistical Herodium. We spent the afternoon at the traditional site of the Shepherds Field and then on to Bethlehem to finish the day.
There were so many lessons wrapped up in our travels today. Seeing the Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives broke down many pre-conceived ideas I had about the city; the most prominent of which is that Jerusalem isn't really on a hill. More like down in a ditch. I was always taught that it was a “city on a hill...” which is true if you’re coming to Jerusalem from fifty miles out. It is a truth for travelers.
But once you get here, Jerusalem is down in a valley with mountains rising on almost every side. It’s not the lowest thing around, but it comes close. The entire two mile long ridge of Mount of Olives looks down on the city. It begs the question why David chose this spot for the capital city and eventually the Holy Temple of God. It seems to many who visit that the lower elevation would compromise the perception of divine credibility. “What kind of god lives in a hole?”
I read Isaiah 2:2. “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills.” And I am reminded once again that God’s got a plan, and once again, it’s the very thing we don’t expect.
I am learning that place participates with struggle. Let me explain that. As Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane over his impending death (which included not just extreme physical pain, but an encounter with the full-on wrath of God), the Judean Wilderness was right there. Within a half-day walk, Jesus could flee His purpose and be lost in the crags and canyons of the wild just to the East of the garden. From the Mount of Olives, Jesus could see a way out. This moment might be the closest we come to losing our salvation. He is on the cusp of walking away.
We learned (an advantage to walking this land) that often in the Bible when someone walks to the east, bad things happen. Adam and Eve are cast to the East, the Tower of Babel is to the East, David flees to the East…
So that night, even though he seemed ready to walk east, Jesus went west to Jerusalem and the cross.
Standing in the olive trees, I could feel a tiny corner of His temptation to flee. It worried me and made me glad the fate of the world was not resting on these broken shoulders.Read more