The Mount of Olives

The Mount of Olives

The Mount of Olives was a place frequented by the Lord during His earthly ministry. The Garden of Gethsemane, where the Lord agonised in anticipation of Calvary, is to be found at Olivet. It is also the place from which He ascended into Heaven whilst His disciples watched. It also is the place to which He will return at His Second Advent, to set up His Kingdom on earth. We intend to examine Olivet’s association with the past, and with events yet future.

The features we wish to consider about the Mt. of Olives are as follows:

  • A Place of Communion
  • A Place of Revelation
  • A Place of Anticipation and Humiliation
  • A Place of Victory and Vindication

Place of Communion

Both Luke and John record that the Lord went frequently to the Mt of Olives. Luke tells us that after the Lord had instituted the Lord’s Supper, He went out and “went as He was wont to the Mt of Olives.”1 John records that “every man went unto his own house. Jesus went to the Mt. of Olives.”2 We gather from these scriptures that the Lord was no stranger to the Mt. of Olives, and that most of these times He went alone. We are not told specifically why the Lord went there but it would be safe to assume that He found it necessary under the burden of service, and the anticipation of the future, to be alone with the Father.

So it must be with us. It is possible to be too busy serving, and to neglect the necessity of personal communion with the Father. Possible that the burdens of service and our schedules, could take precedence over time alone with God. In such a situation our service will become mechanical, and lacking that necessary unction of the Spirit. The Lord told Peter that unless He allowed Him to wash His feet, he had no part with Him. A very solemn warning to us as we serve.

We cannot claim to be serving Him, if we are not spending time with Him. Could it be said of us that in the midst of busy service, ‘we go as we are wont’ to be alone with Him?

Place of Revelation

Twice over it is recorded in the Gospels that a select group of the disciples approached Him on the Mt. of Olives and asked Him the question: “…When shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of Thy coming…?”3 Mark records that Peter, James, John and Andrew were the disciples present on that occasion. In this great passage often referred to as The Olivet Discourse, the Lord disclosed to them the vista or prophecy, well beyond the times in which they were living. The prophetic picture presented by the Lord goes beyond the Church Age and tells of the events that will surround the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th week, including the Great Tribulation period. He then goes on to speak about His Second Advent, when He will return to set up His Kingdom. For those disciples anticipating the soon arrival of the visible Kingdom on earth, this must have been a puzzling picture. Indeed even after the Lord had been crucified and has risen from the dead, despite all He had told them they were still asking “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”4 Like ourselves sometimes, they had made up their minds as to how things should unfold and they had great difficulty in laying these ideas aside to accept the truth.

We learn from this scene at the Mt. of Olives, that the secret to understanding the will of the Lord for our personal lives, and also the bigger picture for the future of the world and the universe, can only be discovered in the measure that we spend time with Him and allow Him to teach us. We see this in the lives of the two on the road to Emmaus. Their depression and doubt arose from a lack of understanding of the scriptures and they thought that everything had gone wrong. But when the Lord appeared all was made right. He gently chided them “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?”5 We may have many problems with our comprehension of what the future might hold, and whilst the Lord might not reveal all to us, we will receive great peace of mind from what he does reveal. For example, the disciples present with the Lord on the Mount of Olives, learned that the balmy days of the Kingdom were not about to be realised, and that persecution and danger lay in their path. It was important that they should understand this because when the opposition came, they would realise that this was not outside the purposes of God for them. But the revelations given here will be of special comfort to the saints of the Tribulation period, when they realise that that seemingly chaotic conditions they are experiencing are all under the control of their God, and that the storm clouds are but the forerunners of the Coming of the Lord to deliver them and establish His Kingdom.

Place of Submission & Humiliation

Now we turn to the same mountain, but this time under vastly different conditions. The Lord is nearing the end of His time here on earth, and the shadow of the Cross lies heavily across His path – Calvary with all its suffering. At this point He enters the Garden of Gethsemane which was located on the slopes of Olivet.

The Agony of Gethsemane

Immediately after instituting the Lord’s Supper, this symbol of His coming death, the Lord and his disciples, apart from Judas, went out, crossed the brook Kidron, and entered the Garden of Gethsemane. In a sense it was appropriate that the Lord should undergo His agony of anticipation at this place. The Mt. of Olives was the place of ‘olive presses,’ where the fruit of its many olive trees was crushed and bruised to yield the oil. It was here that the Lord was to undergo the crushing and bruising as He anticipated the suffering of Calvary. In that Garden the Lord was crushed to the point where “His sweat was it were great drops of blood, falling down to the ground.”6 The writer to the Hebrews enlarges on this scene as he writes about “…prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears….;”7

First, the Lord said to His disciples to “Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.”8 Luke tells us that the Lord withdrew from them “a stone’s cast, and, and kneeled down and prayed.”9 I suggest that this is highly symbolic. Here was an experience that the Lord alone could pass through, and into which none could share a part. It was a time of intense agony and suffering as the Lord anticipated the horror of Calvary. And indeed we must like the disciples recognise that we cannot follow Him in all that Gethsemane involves. There are mysteries here that defy analysis, and there we must leave it. This is the Holiest of ground. The Lord speaks to his Father and he says “Father if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”10 This was said with the Lord “being in an agony, and his sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”11 We must not assume that the Lord Jesus was shrinking from doing the Father’s will. No! Far be the thought. There was no reluctance, but certainly a dread of all that lay before Him. The Lord was willing to drink that dark and dreadful cup in obedience to the Father’s will, and for our salvation.

Death and the curse were in our cup,

O Christ t’was full for Thee,

But Thou hast drained the last dark drop,

‘Tis empty now for me,

That bitter cup, love drank it up,

Now blessings draught for me

Place of Ascension

We now leave Gethsemane, and come to another scene associated with the Mt. of Olives after the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus – the place of His ascension. The Lord had tried to forewarn the disciples that He was going to leave them and go back to Heaven. He had said “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.”12 He had also said “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and to your God.”13 and now that time of parting has come. Following His resurrection the Lord had been on the earth now for 40 days, and had established ‘many infallible proofs’ of His resurrection, which was fundamental to the whole scheme of Salvation.

It is worthy of note that the Ascension of the Lord is absent from Matthew and from John. Mark’s account is very brief, and simply records the fact of the ascension but without details as to where or how. We are therefore indebted to Luke who gives us most of the information regarding the ascension at the close of His Gospel, but with much more details in Acts 1. Luke does not identify the place until after he has given details about the ascension, only then does he tell us “Then returned they to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet…..”14

The Ascension

Prior to His ascension, the Lord first spent time with the disciples telling them about things that would pertain once he had gone. He spoke about the imminent descent of the Holy Spirit, and the fact that they would be His witnesses to a waiting world. It was as He spoke these things that He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. They watched transfixed “looking steadfastly towards Heaven,” and two men in white apparel gave the closing message to this scene when they said “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”15 These verses give us the historical record of the ascension.

Other scriptures record the significance of this great event. The apostle writing to the Ephesians reminds us “…. he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:”16 Again we read “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”17 The writer to the Hebrews adds further to the scene as he records the words of the Father to the Son on His arrival in Heaven saying “…Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?”18 Yes, the glorification of Christ is not a future event – it is already history – and at His Advent, His Glory will be revealed to a wondering universe.

He fills the Throne, the Throne above,

He fills it without wrong,

The object of His Fathers’ love,

The theme of angel’s song.

Place of Vindication & Triumph

Luke tells of the two men in white apparel who spoke to the disciples at the ascension, who prophesied that the Lord would return “in like manner as ye have seen him go.. ”19 referring to his return to the Mount of Olives at His Second Advent. It must be noted that this is not a reference to the Rapture of the Saints, but to the coming of Christ in power and glory to the world to set up His Kingdom on earth. We are indebted to Zechariah for the details of that moment. Israel will be at the point of extinction, with all the nations of the world poised to make the final blow that will rid them of the Israeli problem. At that point Zechariah records “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.”20 This cataclysmic event will drastically change the face of the region, and will herald His arrival. The enemies of Israel and of Christ will be destroyed by the brightness of His coming. The stone of Daniel 2 will grind and break the nations to powder, and become the great mountain that will fill the whole earth. – His Millennial Kingdom.21 All this at the place where He was in an agony, and sweat as it were great drops of blood. That same place where He took the place of submission to the Father’s’ will saying “Not my will, but Thine be done.” The place where He was betrayed by Judas, and humiliated by the mob that arrested Him and “led Him away.” This time He returns to Mt. Olivet in power, glory, triumph and victory to put all His foes beneath His feet. This time Olivet –the place of Olive presses, will be not be the place where He will be crushed and bruised, but where the nations of the world in their enmity to God and His Christ will be crushed and bruise by His mighty power.

Conclusion

We have seen that the Mt. of Olives has had, and will have, an important part to play in the outworking of Divine purposes. We have seen that it was:

  • A Place Of Communion For The Lord
  • A Place Of Revelation For The Disciples
  • A Place Of Submission And Humiliation For The Lord
  • A Place Of Ascension To Glory
  • A Place Of Victory And Triumph At His Second Advent

 

Endnotes

1 Lk. 22. 39

2 Jn. 7. 53 – 8. 1

3 Matt. 24. 3

4 Acts 1. 6

5 Lk. 24. 6

6 Lk. 22. 44

7 Heb. 5. 7

8 Matt. 26. 36

9 Lk. 22. 41.

10 Lk. 22. 42

11 Lk. 22. 44

12 Jn. 14. 2

13 Jn. 20. 17

14 Acts 1. 12

15 Acts 1. 11

16 Eph. 1. 19 -21

17 Php 2. 9 – 11

18 Heb. 1. 13

19 Acts 1. 11

20 Zech.14. 4

21 Dan. 2. 34 – 35 – The phrase ‘the love of Christ’ occurs just three times in Paul’s epistles, although its truth permeates much more of the New Testament revelation of our Saviour than that.

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William Burnett

William Burnett was born and raised in Scotland, and spent his entire professional life in the Oil refining industry. He was seconded to Canada by his employer in 1972, and accepted early retirement in 1994. He has been a "tentmaker," - working in business, whilst ministering among the assemblies - since his late teen years. Early retirement has enabled him to undertake a much wider sphere of itinerant ministry throughout North America, and abroad. He also sits on the board of Counsel Magazine, and contributes regularly to various publication, including Uplook, Precious Seed and the Choice Gleanings Calendar. He and his wife Beth reside in Oakville, Ontario, where they are in happy fellowship in Hopedale Assembly. They have three married sons, and eight grandchildren.