The Mount of Olives – John 8
The Mount of Olives
The end of the chapter 7 and the beginning of chapter 8 are striking. Here’s what is says: “Each went to his home but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.”
Here’s a little MO about the MO, Mount of Olives.
The Mount of Olives or Mount Olivet is a mountain ridge east of and adjacent to the Jerusalem’s Old portion of city. This is the place where Jesus will ascend. Beam me up Scotty transporter. If Jesus felt at home in this moment perhaps this was it.
The Mount of Olives is a Burial Site
Another important fact about the Mount of Olives concerns its role as a burial site. The Mount of Olives in Israel is roughly equivalent to America’s Arlington National Cemetery. It is the largest and most important Jewish cemetery in the world. It is estimated to have over 150,000 people buried here. Long before the days of Jesus, the Jews believed that the resurrection would occur here. They believed the Mount of Olives would be the site where the Lord would defend Israel at the end of time based on their interpretation of Zechariah 14:4
They also believed the Messiah would enter Jerusalem by way of the Mount of Olives. It was from the Mount of Olives that the Glory of the Lord left Israel. See Ezek. 11:23. And it would be here that the Glory of the Lord would return. Interestingly, Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem by way of the Mount of Olives! See Mk. 11:1-11.
Like the famous author Lafayette, who took enough American soil with him so he could be buried on it in France, so also Jews took soil from the Mount of Olives in order to share in the benefits of being raised from its sacred ground.
The Mount of Olives Fires
The Jewish calendar was extremely important in the religious life of the nation. The entire religious cycle of Jewish worship is based upon beginning the calendar on the correct day. Accordingly, the Jewish calendar is based on a series of monthly cycles. The Feasts of the New Moon, Passover, Tabernacles and others were based on when each month began.
The appearance of the new moon was the key. The Sanhedrin (the highest ruling body in Israel) had the sole authority to decide when the new moon appeared. A special court of three was delegated the task to test witnesses who would testify that they had seen the new moon. There was the constant danger that false testimony would be given to deliberately throw-off the calendar.
Once a determination was made, a fire signal went out to inform the Jewish people everywhere of the new month. The fire signals began at the Mount of Olives. The Junior Jewish Encyclopedia said this about the fire signals:
“In ancient times, before astronomical calculations were made mathematically exact, the people of Judea watched the skies for the appearance of the new moon. As soon as it was spotted by witnesses, great bonfires were lit on the hilltops to speed the news. Burning torches signaled from mountain to mountain, beginning with Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives and on as far as the Babylonian frontier. In the Holy Land, the Sanhedrin (highest legislative and judicial council) fixed the dates of the holidays and the festivals, and fast messengers relayed the information as far as Babylonia.”
The Last Olivet Signal Fire
The last words of Jesus just before He ascended from the Mount of Olives now have a richer meaning for us.
The Ascension of our Lord and Savior occurred at the Mount of Olives because this was the place where the Sanhedrin signaled God’s people worldwide to worship Him. Except now, God would send out One Last Signal from the Mount of Olives: the Ascension of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Jews and Gentiles alike were now expected to regulate their spiritual life by Jesus of Nazareth. He was the beginning of the ‘religious calendar.’
The message of the two angels is clear.
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?” Prepare to spread the news of the (SIGNAL SENT OUT TO ALL THE WORLD), Jesus Christ has ascended and He will return again.
“At that time the sign of The Son of Man will appear in the sky and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see The Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:30-31)
“Then The Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. (Zechariah 14:3-5)