By Amir Tsarfati
Mount of Olives is called Mount of Olives for the thousands of olive trees that were all around it and on top of it, during the time of Jesus, as well as earlier throughout the 1st temple period. The olive tree was planted for the sole purpose of the olives to produce oil.
People did not eat olives in those days. Pickling olives is something that the world got used to only in the last few hundreds of years. The olives themselves were used for several purposes. In those days, they would use the olive oil for anointing people, to treat skin and hair, as well as a burning material for lamps, and of course, cooking and seasoning food.
Mount of Olives is a mountain range that basically protects Jerusalem which is behind me, from the desert, which is on the eastern side of it. Mount of Olives goes all the way from the northern part of what is called today, Mount Scopus, from where Titus with Vespasian scoped Jerusalem just before he destroyed it in 70 AD.
Then, of course, there is the central portion which is called Olives and the southernmost one which is called the Hill of Scandal where, we believe, Solomon allowed his foreign wives to build pagan high places and altars for their foreign gods.
Much of what is going on, on the slopes of Mount of Olives today, is directly related to the valley which is below it. The valley behind us is the Valley of Kidron, known also in the Bible as the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat in Hebrew, “The Lord will judge”. No doubt an exciting place, not only in ancient times but also for future reference.
The Bible says in Joel 3:1-3 that “In the days to come the Lord is going to gather all nations down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, where He will enter into judgement with them, on the account of His people Israel and his land.” The nations of the world will have to go down to this valley and go through judgment.
Not according to whether they believe in Jesus or not, to whether they were good people or not but on one single account. What did they do to the people of Israel and to the land of Israel? They obviously are going to pay a dear price for anything they did to that nation that is so dear to God. A nation that God calls “the Apple of My Eye”.
This is why, thousands of Jewish people wanted to be buried on the slopes of Mount of Olives, just so in the day of resurrection, they will all face the Temple Mount. They will be right there witnessing the judgment of God over the nations that did so much evil to the nation of Israel and to the land of Israel.
The people are all buried here deep in the ground. The Jewish people do not cremate the dead ones. They just bury them deep there under that tombstone. All of them are buried in it in such a way that once they resurrect, they will face the Temple Mount and they will face that judgment place. They ́re all buried under the ground, yet the tombstone is there so we can mark their name and the years throughout which they lived on earth.
As a token of respect, as we visit cemeteries like these, as we walk by the tombstone, we put our own little rock on it. This serves as a reminder of what the Jewish people did, as the Israelites did, as they were wandering in the desert. When somebody died, there was no way to have him buried in a proper cemetery and bring flowers. They just had to dig a hole in the ground, bury the dead person, cover it up, put up a pile of stones and rocks, so it will be preserved, and no animal will eat the dead body. And every time somebody would pass by a pile of rocks, just out of respect, he would add one more to preserve that burial site.
Mount of Olives is also the place where kings were anointed. Also, this is the place where the red heifer used to be slaughtered, every few hundreds of years when a new one appeared, and it was a need for the ashes of it.
But also, this is the place where, once a year on Yom Kippur, the high priest would take the scapegoat and go through that eastern gate; he would walk on a wooden bridge across the Kidron Valley; he would bypass (or climb over) the defiled cemeteries; and get to the point where he sent the goat, from the top of Mount of Olives down to the desert, to its death.
Miraculously, the Jewish Mishnah and the Talmud say, a red string that was tied around the neck of the goat alongside with a red string that was tied on a branch on a tree, right where the priest was standing, both turned miraculously white as that scapegoat died in the desert. Interestingly enough, the Jewish Talmud says that around 40 years before the destruction of the Temple that red string stopped turning white. I wonder, what was it, or who was it, that was sacrificed who brought no meaning anymore to the death of that scapegoat?
Behind me, you can see the eastern gate. The one that we see today is, of course, something that was reconstructed by the Turks about 480 years ago. But the original gate, from the time of Jesus, is buried right underneath this one.
It ́s interesting because they say that the Muslims blocked that gate and even put a Muslim cemetery right underneath to defile the soil and to prevent the Jewish Messiah from returning and coming into the City through that gate.
Interestingly enough, the Bible predicted that the gates of the city will be sunk under the rubble. If we read in Lamentations, in chapter 2 verse 9, “Jerusalem, her gates are sunk under the rubble.” So, the fact that the original gate is underneath this one was already predicted a long time ago.
The interesting thing is that Psalm 24 tells us that when Jesus will return and when that earthquake that Zechariah in chapter 12 and in chapter 14 describes will take place, the Bible says that nothing from that Temple Mount is going to remain as that earthquake will bring about so much destruction.
There will be a great valley created right in between Mount of Olives and the Mount of Olives will part into two. The Bible says that the original gates will be lifted up. If we read in Psalm 24, “Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty. The Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of Hosts He is the King of glory.” (Psalms 24: 7-10)
So, the promise of the return of Jesus, as a warrior, riding a horse, coming to this place, and eventually entering through the sunken gate that will be lifted up, is a solid promise, and what we see today is only temporary.
Mount of Olives was also a gathering place for all of the Galilean Jews that made it to Jerusalem at least 3 times a year in the 3 high festivals (the high holidays): Passover; Pentecost; and the Feast of Tabernacles. It was very natural for the Galileans to be on Mount of Olives simply because it was the last place on their long journey from Galilee through the Jordan Valley.
They would make up their way from Jericho, down east, and they would sing the songs of ascent as they were making their journey up to the top of Mount of Olives, and for the first time, they would see the temple only as they were on the very top of that mountain. They settled themselves there. They built tents all around and they would stay on top of Mount of Olives for the remainder of the days of that holiday.
Therefore, Jesus was quite well known among these people, and when He entered the city all of them received him with great joy and great anticipation. Jesus never stayed within the walls of Jerusalem except on the night of His betrayal. Every day He would make His way from the top of Mount of Olives, down to the Kidron, cross that valley, enter the temple area, spend the day there, and He would come back to the top of Mount of Olives into the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethpage, or in Bethany, to stay the night there. Jesus would only come to Jerusalem during the Jewish holidays.
It was in Galilee, where he felt home, where He grew up, and where He belonged. Jerusalem was there for His final voyage, for His destiny to be crucified, eventually resurrected, and ascend to heaven. Apparently, Jerusalem was so religious with so much hypocrisy that Jesus could not stand it.
When Jesus will return, the Bible says things will be completely different. He will rule. He will reign from this city. But that will be after the people have already repented; and accepted Him as Lord, as King, as Messiah, as Redeemer. The Bible says that Jesus Himself promised that all that was written about Him in the prophets had to be fulfilled.
Therefore, when Jesus came on that very day which Daniel, the Prophet, in chapter 9 predicted the Messiah would enter Jerusalem (the day that will be exactly 173,800 days after the decree to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem will be made by the King of Persia of those days) that day Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding a donkey. Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophet, Zechariah, in chapter 9 verse 9, “Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Jesus had to fulfill every word spoken by the prophets of Israel regarding the coming of the Messiah. He entered riding on the donkey just as Zechariah predicted and He was received with great honor and great anticipation, mostly by the Galilean Jews that were all around here, but also by many other Jerusalemites and visitors during that Passover season. The Pharisees could not overlook the great admiration that He was getting from the lay Jewish pilgrims.
Jesus was not eventually received as Messiah, as Redeemer, and was led to the cross. The Jewish people are still living in great anticipation for the coming of the Messiah. They really believe that He ́s about to come and even if He tarries, they will wait. So, Jesus came to Jerusalem, but Jerusalem was not ready. This explains, of course, why Jesus said, “Jerusalem, you ́ve missed your visitation”. Wow.
What is visitation? A visitation is when someone comes for a short period and leaves later, that ́s a visitation. The Jewish people, Jerusalem (this city) missed the idea that the Messiah has to come first as a suffering servant of the Lord, as a Passover Lamb, as the Lamb that carries the sins of the world. He has to be slaughtered.
He has to bear upon Himself the affliction, the sins, and the transgressions of the entire world as Isaiah 53 says, “All of us have gone astray, each and every one of us turned to his own way but the Lord laid upon Him the iniquities and the transgressions of us all.”
The Jewish religion doesn ́t have an official creed. Jewish beliefs are articulated and observed by followers of the faith through the reading of the sacred text of Judaism, like the Torah. However, the great 12th century Rabbi Maimonides, “Rambam”, the way we call him, put together 13 articles of faith that he believed every Jew ought to believe.
These beliefs have been widely accepted as the proper expression of the Jewish faith and they still appear in Jewish prayer books, even today. 1. God exists; 2. God is one and unique; 3. God is incorporeal, which means does not compose of man; 4. God is eternal; 5. Prayer is to God only; 6. The prophets spoke the truth; 7. Moses was the greatest of all the prophets; 8. The written and oral Torah were given to Moses; 9. There will be no other Torah; 10. God knows the thoughts and deeds of men; 11. God will reward the good and punish the wicked; 12. The Messiah will come; 13. The dead will be resurrected.
Most of these things are pretty good. Interestingly enough, they truly believe that the Messiah will come and all of them say, I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah and though He tarries, yet I will wait daily for his coming.
Wow, the Jewish people are waiting daily for the coming of the Messiah. They really think that He may tarry. They really think that He may not be here on time, but yet they shall wait. The Jewish people definitely missed His visitation.
Jerusalem enjoyed a great deal of peace, prosperity, and also, a religious spirit that made all people feel good with themselves, and about themselves. That is the reality into which Jesus walked, or was riding the donkey, that is the city that was very prideful and arrogant, that is the picture of that fig tree that had leaves, but underneath there was absolutely no fruit.
The Bible says that Jesus came riding the donkey, entered into that peaceful and beautiful city, yet He stopped and wept over the city. This explains the shape of this church, Dominus Flevit, which was built by the Catholic monk, Antonio Berluzzi, on the slopes of this mountain in the 20th century. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Jesus could see the coming destruction as a fruit of the disbelief of this city. Yet the people here were completely blinded, completely sure that they are okay, that religion is the answer and not true faith in the need for a true Savior from their own sin.
As I said, Jesus entered Jerusalem and He wept as Luke 19 says in verse 41, “When He saw the city, He wept.” He was riding the donkey as Zechariah said in chapter 9: 9. The Jewish tradition, and in the middle east tradition in general, when a king comes in peace, he is riding a donkey and when a king is coming for war, he is riding a horse.
So, the entrance of Jesus riding on a donkey was not for war. The Bible says in John 3:17 and also in John 12:47 that the son of man did not come to judge the world, but to save. The first coming of Jesus was not about judgment, was not about war, was not about establishing His throne, here, forever. It was about saving them through His perfect sacrifice, the perfect blood of a perfect lamb.
You see, you don ́t have to be Jewish necessarily to still be religious and to miss His visitation. You can be Hindu, Muslim, you can be Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox, you can be whatever religion there is and still miss His visitation. Jesus came to Israel to save them from their sins, but they did not receive him. He came to His own, but his own received him not. Jesus came to the world, to save the world from its sin.
Jesus wants us broken, empty. Jesus wants us to present ourselves as a living sacrifice. Jesus wants us to come to the understanding that we need a Savior, that we cannot make it by ourselves.
The law was perfect. The Jews, themselves, say there is no other law. But there is no way any person can ever fulfill the law, because it is perfect, because it is holy, and because mankind is not perfect, and is not holy. We must have a savior. We must have a redeemer. We must have someone who will broker a way for us back to God.
Jesus wants us to believe in Him alone, not in Him plus other things that one must do in order to be saved. Salvation is by faith alone, through Jesus Christ, not through any other name. Don ́t miss His visitation. Jesus came to save. Jesus came to forgive. Jesus rode a donkey. Jesus came in peace.
This is the time for you to understand that and to take action upon it. This is the time for you where you can still, peacefully, believe in him and then, of course, enjoy eternal life. The time will come when the Lord Jesus will return.
He will return to this city, to this earth, riding a horse. He will come as a man of war. He will consume with the breath of his mouth all the enemies, all the ungodliness, all the wickedness that will be here on this earth when he comes back.
On which side do you want to find yourself during that day? Riding a horse behind Jesus coming with Him to this very place? Or being right here, completely blinded by the prince of this world, completely bruised by all that great tribulation that this world is going to go through, and of course, later on, find your death in this terrible war of that Day of the Lord, that Great Day of the Lord? The Jewish people may think that the Messiah tarries but I can tell you one thing 2 Peter chapter 3 verses 8 and 9 say, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3: 8-9)
The Lord is speaking to you today. He doesn ́t want you to perish. He wants you to repent. He will come and save you.