Return to the Mount of Olives
“And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the Mount of Olives.” Luke 21:37
Intro: Today we are going to talk about the Return to the Mount of Olives. Just east of the Holy City of Jerusalem is the Mount of Olives. It is a brisk 25 minute walk from along the Palm Sunday route with its panoramic view of the Old City, down the hill, passing the Garden of Gethsemane and across the Kidron Valley, thru the Eastern Gate and up the winding street to the place of the Holy Temple.
The Mount of Olives is one of the most important mountains in the New Testament. It is the place where Jesus preached his "Sermon on the Mount." It is the place of many familiar teachings. It is the traditional site for Jesus' ascension back into heaven. It is the place where Jesus stood and viewed all Jerusalem in front of him and the bible says Jesus wept over the city.
This Greek word “eklausen” for wept (Strong’s 2799) means “sobbed, out loudly, to wail rather than cry silently. See Luke 19:41 “As they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry.”
In John 11:35 as in the account of the death of Lazarus: the word wept is different in the Greek (dakruo) Strong’s 1145 “to shed tears.” Jesus shed tears at the discovery of the death of Lazarus.
But Jesus sobbed out loud, he wailed, he made a long high-pitched mournful cry as to express pain, and grief, as he Jesus knew that those who would shout Hosanna, at his triumphal entry, will quickly reject their king and savior and shout crucify him. Eternal life is within their reach but only a few will understand and accept it. Here these tears of Jesus are of eternal importance.
Life is full of moments of both laughter and crying. How often have you heard both at a funeral home? Or when talking with someone who has received a phone call with bad news and you are trying to console them. Grief reveals itself thru both tears of sorrow and moments of happiness. We find comfort and release as we celebrate the highs and lows of life through tears of sadness and tears of joy. Humor is important in life but so are tears.
The Mount of Olives is associated with many patriarchal and historical events throughout the ancient times of Israel and the Jewish people. Something else about the Mount of Olives that I want to touch on near the end of the sermon is that along the southern part of the Mount of Olives is a Jewish cemetery that is over 3000 years old with an estimated over 150,000 graves.
So it is no accident that during the week of the celebration of the Passover, after visiting the temple and spending time with the priests and teaching at the market place and talking with the people at the end of the day Jesus returns to spend the nights on the Mount of Olives.
It is by design that Jesus returns the Mount of Olives. It is a place where Jesus talked with God, and agonized and there was a lot of weeping and wrestling in prayer and it was the place where he received confirmation that his death was to come. It is the location of the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus would pray on that most notably night of his betrayal and arrest.
There is so much significance about what happens on the Mount of Olives, including that this is where Jesus tells us about his Second Coming. Matthew 24:3 “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when these things will be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
The Easter story is not just about the death, crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ. It is ultimately about the Second Coming of Christ.
Jesus is sitting on the Mt. of Olives where Zechariah prophesied in Zechariah 14:5 “Then the Lord my God will come, and all his holy ones with him.” This prophecy told some 500 years earlier is a foreshadowing of the crucifixion of Jesus.
But listen closely, when we look in Acts 1:11 an angel of the Lord appears on the Mount of Olives after Jesus’ resurrection and at his ascension back up into heaven and promised “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven. 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.” This is a promise about Jesus at his Second Coming at the end of the age.
What does Easter mean to you? A preacher asked several people what Easter meant to them. To little children it means “Easter Bunny and egg hunts with lots of candy.” To a teenager Easter means “Fun in the sun; and Spring Break!” To a sports fan it means Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final four and Championship play offs baby. To a hairdresser it means busy week of ladies getting their hair done. But then the preacher asked a person facing death and dying, and he said, what Easter meant to him; with a tear in his eye he said, “Easter means I can live again forever.”
What does Easter mean to you? Does it mean a new dress with a beautiful ribbon? Does it mean a burst of spring is just around the corner? Or does it mean a brand new life in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour?
Let us go back and walk past the crucifixion and the cross. They beat Jesus. They whipped him with a cat of nine tails so bad that his body, his back, his face was unrecognizable. They spit in his face. They mocked him. They plucked his beard. They led him through the streets naked. They laid him down on an old rugged cross and with a hammer drove nails through his hands and nails through his feet. They raised him on a cross like a criminal even though he was perfectly innocent. They continued to curse him and yell insults at him. While he was dying they gambled for his garments. And when he died they took a spear and pierced it into his side and heart to make absolutely sure he was dead. When they buried him they put guards at his tomb so no one could steal his body and claim he was alive. They rolled a stone at the door of the tomb.
But what about the rest of the story? How often do we hear Easter Sermons that end with the Resurrection but never teach us that the rest of the story centers on the Return of Jesus to the Mount of Olives at his Second Coming! Someday Jesus will retrace his holy steps down along the Palm Sunday route, down the hill, passing the Garden of Gethsemane and across the Kidron Valley, and once again enter thru the Eastern Gate and walk up the winding street to the place of the Holy Temple again. This second coming will be the end of the age and beginning of the new heaven and new earth. Revelation 21:2 “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for his husband.”
The Eastern Gate was sealed and walled up by Muslim conquerors (the Ottoman Turks) in 1530 A.D. Suleiman who was the Caliph of Islam and the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He sealed the Eastern Gate with stone and reinforced the gate so that if Jesus did return it would prevent him from entering through it. He also started a muslin cemetery in from of the gate believing that no Jew would defy himself spiritual by walking through a Muslin cemetery. (notes from The Encyclopedia of World History and Bible History.) Matthew 27:6 reminds us “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” Yet someday Jesus will Return to the Mount of Olives and the Second Coming will happen and it is much closer than you might think.
The disciples asked, “Lord give us a sign.” The first sign was the Matthew 12:39-40. “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” This is Jesus death, burial, and resurrection.
Another sign was the first blood moon. Luke 23:44 "It was noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until the light of the sun was gone.” This was preached about by Peter in Acts chapter 2:19-20 “And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below—blood and fire and clouds and smoke. 20 The sun will be turned into darkness and moon will turn blood red, before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.” What most people miss is that this is not Peter preaching about something that will happen in the future. Instead it is Peter telling us what he just witnessed was this fulfilled prophecy of Joel 2:31 “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” The sun’s light stopped shinning. As you know the moon only reflects light mainly off the sun. As the sun light stopped shining while Jesus was on the cross the moon reflected only the other celestial light giving it that red glow known as a blood moon. As Jesus red blood was shed on the cross this was the first red blood moon. It wasn’t caused by a solar eclipse it was caused by God who stopped the sun’s light from shinning and the moon to turn blood red to fulfill the prophesy of Joel so that all the world could see salvation had arrived! Acts 2:21 “And anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
We could talk the rest of the day about the meaning and prophecies about the blood moon and truthfully none of us have the answers. But I encourage you to go back and read these prophecies of Joel and teaching of Luke and Peter in Acts and see how they all connect to point to salvation on the cross and the second coming of Jesus.
I told you at the beginning of the sermon that I was going to talk about the Jewish cemetery on the southern part of the Mount of Olives. It was over 3000 years old with an estimated over 150,000 graves. The bible is clear about this. On that first resurrection morning Matthew 27:52-53 “And the graves were opened and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 and came out of the graves after the resurrection, and went into the holy city and appeared unto man.”
Easter is about the same promise that when Jesus Returns to the Mount of Olives at his Second Coming. First Corinthians 15:51 says, “Behold I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality.”
Satan seemed to be victorious in the Garden of Gethsemane. Satan might have thought he was victorious in the Garden of Gethsemane in the Mount of Olives. Satan even thinks he was the winner when Jesus died on the cross. Satan had a party when they put Jesus in the tomb. And Satan wants you to think that he is in control today. But the truth is the stone is rolled away! The truth is there is no amount of stone and blocks that is going to keep Jesus from bursting open the Eastern Gate one more time and declaring his victory and the final execution of his judgment when he comes back for the Second Coming.
Aren’t you glad that Easter is just the beginning of the promise that Jesus is coming back again! Once again Jesus will Return to the Mount of Olives and look out toward the Holy City of Jerusalem. But this time Jesus will not be crying tears of sorrow. He will not be wailing and sobbing. Revelations 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Easter does not end with the Resurrection of Jesus. Easter is just the beginning of the promise. The Easter story is not just about the death, crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ. It is ultimately about the Second Coming of Christ and about our loved ones who have died in the faith will be resurrected.
Closing: Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of eternal life. I know I am a sinner and don’t deserve your mercy. But Jesus freely gave his live and died for my salvation. You loved me and you love him so much you raised him from the grave and from the dead. That purchased a place in Heaven for me. I repent of my sin and claim your gift of Jesus for he alone is the way to forgiveness and eternal life. Now take control of my life and help me to increase my faith and trust and serve you. Amen.
I finished by singing one of the great revival and camp meeting hymns by author Robert Sterling Arnold (January 26, 1905 – February 8, 2003)
No tears in heaven, no sorrows given.
All will be glory in that land;
There'll be no sadness, all will be gladness,
When we shall join that happy band.
No tears (in heaven fair)
No tears, no tears up there,
Sorrow and pain will all have flown;
No tears (in heaven fair)
No tears, no tears up there;
No tears in heaven will be known.
Glory is waiting, waiting up yonder,
Where we shall spend an endless day;
There with our Savior, we'll be forever,
Where no more sorrow can dismay.
Some morning yonder, we'll cease to ponder
O'er things this life has brought to view;
All will be clearer, loved ones be dearer
In heav'n where all will be made new.