There is something eternally special about the Mount of Olives. It seems to be a sanctified port of entry and exit for God’s divine transition between earth and heaven.
Mount Olivet is really a hill that sits directly east of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and looks down upon it in peaceful tranquility. For millennia its hillside has been covered with olive trees, many of which are still found there today. At its base lies the Garden of Gethsemane, the site where Jesus prayed in anguish while His apostles slept. He knew the hour of His crucifixion and suffering was at hand, an hour that would fulfill the righteous requirement of atonement for the curse of sin in humankind.
Centuries before Christ, Ezekiel saw a divine vision of the glorious presence of God as it was departing the Temple. Leaving earth due to the unbending idolatry of Judah and its leaders, the glory moved up and away from its residence in the Holy of Holies, paused at the east gate of the Temple, then moved out, stopping over the Mount of Olives to the east.
18 Then the glory of the Lord moved out from the entrance of the Temple and hovered above the cherubim. 19 And as I watched, the cherubim flew with their wheels to the east gate of the Lord’s Temple. And the glory of the God of Israel hovered above them. Ezekiel 10:18-19 (NLT)
22 Then the cherubim lifted their wings and rose into the air with their wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered above them. 23 Then the glory of the Lord went up from the city and stopped above the mountain to the east. Ezekiel 11:22-23 (NLT)
As the glory of the Lord departed the temple, the painful reality of the spiritual chasm between a holy God and sinful people was all too apparent. God’s great move of redemption that began with Abraham and continued through Moses, David and the prophets appeared to have failed. But it did not fail, and in fact, did not even surprise God. As foreshadowed when Abraham was instructed by the Lord to bring Isaac to Mount Moriah as a sin sacrifice (which did not go through), this was the very place where centuries later, the Father would instead permit the sacrifice of His only beloved Son on a cross at Calvary. God always had this loving plan of redemption for women and men, asking only that they have faith and repentance.
In Ezekiel’s vision, why might the Spirit of God have rested over the Mount of Olives before ascending into heaven? Perhaps the Lord paused to reflect upon Gethsemane, where such a painful yet vital transaction of love and reconciliation would one day begin here.
Jesus not only prayed at the Mount of Olives, it was also His place of departure from earth after successfully living a life without sin, carrying out a three year ministry of healing and teaching the kingdom of heaven, laying down His life as a sacrifice on the cross, and being raised from the dead by the power of the Father.
Forty days after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and after appearing to over five hundred of His disciples, He met with some of His closest followers on the Mount to give them final instructions. Then, before their eyes, He ascended from there into heaven.
9 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile. Acts 1:9-12 (NLT)
The Mount of Olives is where the Lord’s presence twice left the earth to return to heaven. Both Ezekiel and Jesus tell us that it will also be the place where He will return to rule and reign, this time for good.
May the Lord help us all to be ready!
Father, I turn to You in faith because of Your great love for me. Thank You for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to atone for all of my sins and shortcomings. Help me to be ready for His return, and to work alongside the Holy Spirit to touch the lives of people. Teach me to live with patience, forgiveness, and love for all the imperfect people around me. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
For peaceful meditation, here is a selection from Psalm 86, which tells of the goodness of the Lord.
3 Be gracious to me, Lord,
For I call upon You all day long.
4 Make the soul of Your servant joyful,
For to You, Lord, I lift up my soul.
5 For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all who call upon You.
6 Listen, Lord, to my prayer;
And give Your attention to the sound of my pleading!
7 On the day of my trouble I will call upon You,
For You will answer me.
8 There is no one like You among the gods, Lord,
Nor are there any works like Yours.
9 All nations whom You have made will come and worship before You, Lord,
And they will glorify Your name.
10 For You are great, and you do wondrous deeds;
You alone are God.
11 Teach me Your way, Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
12 I will give thanks to You, Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forever.
13 For Your graciousness toward me is great,
And You have saved my soul from the depths of Sheol.
15 But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
Slow to anger and abundant in mercy and truth.
16 Turn to me, and be gracious to me;
Grant Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign of good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. Psalm 86:3-13,15-17 (NASB)