And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. Luke 22:39
The Mount of Olives rises 2700 feet (826 m) above the Kidron Valley. It is part of a three-peak ridge that was at one time covered in olive trees. There was a garden there. Every spring we recount the story of what happened in that garden, but it is usually just a stop along the way of a bigger story, the Easter story.
Today, let’s take a few minutes and climb one more mountain and consider what took place–and what is yet to take place–on the Mount of Olives.
It is a place Jesus resorted to often. Luke tells us it was His custom to go to the Mount of Olives. I can imagine a visit each time He was in Jerusalem. Maybe it began when he climbed the hill with his father as a boy. In this passage, it was a place where He poured out His heart to God. We need a place, a familiar comfortable place to meet God regularly.
It was a place of sorrow and struggle. In some ways, the battle for our salvation was won on that mountain in the intensive prayer session. Scripture doesn’t give the specifics, but I wonder if the temptation Jesus faced that night was even more strident and grueling than His time in the wilderness. In the midst of that struggle, He knew His closest friends would fail Him and abandon Him. The crowds He would soon face wouldn’t grasp what He was doing or the implications of their call for His blood. Although not as intense, we face our own moments of sorrow and struggle alone. We have faced our share of battles that have touched the deepest parts of our soul.
It was a place of deep communion. Jesus reached out to His Father, and God sent a ministering angel to strengthen Christ. When we seek God’s face in the depths of our anguish, He hears and He sends strength and comfort.
It was a place of resolve and victory. By the time Jesus rose to His feet, He was ready to face everything that lay ahead with steadfast resolve. He never wavered. There was no hesitation in His steps, no fear or uncertainty in His voice. Evidence of his victory came weeks later, when His friends watched Him return to the Father’s right hand from that very mountain. Zechariah tells us He will return to that spot yet again to put the final seal on His victory and receive His kingdom. That reality should strengthen our resolve. The victory is already won.
There are other mountains in Scripture besides the ones we’ve discussed. Moriah. Carmel. Tabor. Pisgah. Ebal. And others. Each one stands out from the surrounding landscape. Each one unique, both in the perspective it offers and in the experience of the climb. Perhaps your curiosity is piqued now. Even better, I hope your hunger and longing to see, to know, to experience all the mountain offers won’t let you rest until you climb the next one.
Next week is Thanksgiving here in the US.
I’ll be back the following week as we turn our hearts and our thoughts toward Advent.