April 13, 2014 - AM - Pastor Stan Lightfoot
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Theme: The Messiah on the Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives played a pivotal role in the life and ministry of Jesus, and it will play a role in His future ministry, as well. As we celebrate the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, (from the Mount of Olives), I'd like to work through some of the most important events from that setting.
Let me first set the scene for you. The Mount of Olives sits immediately east of Jerusalem (map). Jerusalem also sits on a hill, with the Valley of Hinnom on the south (also known as Gehenna) and the Kidron Valley to the east marking off the boundaries of the Old City. As you leave Jerusalem headed east, you would quickly walk through the Kidron Valley and then begin to walk uphill. The Mount of Olives is this uphill walk. It rises to a height of 2900 feet. Both Luke and John record that Jesus went there often with His disciples. It is on the way to Bethany, where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived. Since he stayed with them throughout the Passion week, Jesus walked this trail to Jerusalem - over the Mount of Olives - every day of that final week of His life. At the base of the Mount of Olives, just as the land begins to rise out of the Kidron Valley, is the Garden of Gethsemane. It is due east of Temple Mount. In Jesus' day, the sides of the hill were covered with Olive trees - some of which survive to this day. Hence the name "Mount of Olives". It was also the site of an ancient graveyard - a Jewish cemetery that contains the remains of some of Israel's OT prophets and exists to this day. This is the place we want to examine this morning. This is the place Jesus chose for several key events during His life and ministry. This is the place to which He will return.
I. THEOCRACY ON THE MOUNT (Matthew 21:1-11)
On the Sunday before His crucifixion - this day we now call Palm Sunday, Jesus presented Himself to Israel as her king. He began His Triumphal Entry from Bethphage, on the east side of the summit. He sent two of His disciples into that village to locate a donkey and her colt. They found them and brought them to Jesus as He told them to do. This fulfilled Zechariah's prophecy (Zech. 9:9) that He would present Himself to Israel as her king on the back of a donkey. His disciples placed their outer garments on the back of the donkey and then helped Jesus into place. A crowd began to gather and they followed the example of the disciples, taking their outer garments and laying them across the path as the donkey moved. Others pulled down Palm branches and laid them in the roadway. As the crowd made its way down the side of the Mount of Olives, people began to chant, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD!" "Hosanna in the highest!" Interspersed in the crowd were Pharisees - members of the Jewish ruling elite, who were not impressed with Jesus or His teachings. They shouted out to Jesus, telling Him to quiet His disciples, which Jesus refused to do. Cries of "Blessed is the King" and "Glory in the highest" continued to ring out. As Jesus came near the Kidron Valley - at the base of the Mount of Olives, Luke tells us He paused and looked over Jerusalem. Tears filled His eyes. He wept over the unbelief of the city, prophesying that "not one stone will be left upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation." Even as He presented Himself as King; even as the crowds around Him sang His praises; even as He entered the city of David that will one day be the seat of His government, He recognized that Israel had rejected Him. This was their chance to be once again ruled by God - to be the people of the promised Messiah, and they missed it because of unbelief. They were racing headlong toward judgment and destruction, and it broke His heart.
The Mount of Olives was the scene of God's offer of a King.
II. TEACHING ON THE MOUNT (Matthew 24-25)
In Matthew 24-25, Jesus sat down with His disciples during Passion Week and spent some time explaining the events of the end times. It is a prophecy related to the Second Coming and as such, ties closely with our 5th point this morning from the prophet Zechariah. We'll get there in a few minutes. Remember that Jesus went to this place with His disciples often. He likely taught them many things on the side of the Mount of Olives. As John said, if all the things that Jesus said and did were written down, the whole world couldn't contain the scroll. So, this is probably not the only thing they heard from Jesus up on the hillside. However, it is one of the most important things He told them here - so important, that Matthew devoted 2 chapters to it. It is often referred to as "The Olivet Discourse" because He delivered it on the Mount of Olives. He began by predicting the destruction of the Temple. His disciples were rightly impressed by the Temple that Herod had built. It was a magnificent structure - a monumental feat of ancient engineering. As they walked out of the Temple area, they were pointing that out to Jesus when He said, "…not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Sound familiar? Just a few days earlier, as He entered the city on the donkey, He had said the same thing as He wept over Jerusalem. So, this was the second time in a period of hours that He had said this. They walked in silence through the Kidron Valley to their usual spot and sat down. Then someone asked when all of this would come to pass. The answer is the Olivet Discourse. We won't take the time to go over it in detail, but can you imagine the silence around the circle as Jesus taught? This is riveting stuff! He talked about the signs of the end of the age, and about the horrors of the Tribulation. He talked about His Second Coming and the fact that no one knows the day or the hour when the Son of Man will come. He spoke to them in parables describing the end times and what it will be like (the parable of the fig tree, and of the 10 virgins, and of the talents) and He told them that He will judge the nations. There was horror and comfort in that lesson. There was straight talk and illustrations. There was encouragement to be faithful and warning for those who are not. I'm sure it was a gut-wrenching half hour or so. It made an impression - so much so that Matthew was able to relate it to us years later.
The Mount of Olives was the scene of the Master's teaching.
III. TREASON ON THE MOUNT (Matthew 26:36-56)
Just two nights later, Jesus was dead. His betrayer was a man from within His inner circle - a man He called friend (a fulfillment of another prophecy) and a man who was so trusted among the disciples that no one could have imagined that he would do what he did. Judas had to find a place to turn Jesus over to the Jewish rulers that would be away from the packed city and at a time when the crowds would not be around to riot. Crowds made the Jewish rulers very nervous. They knew that a riot would attract the unwanted attention of the Romans - attention that would be directed at them. So, they wanted to keep this as quiet as possible. Enter Judas. He promised to find a time and place that would meet the needs of the Sanhedrin and they were very happy to have his inside help (Mark 14:11). That quiet place and time would be late at night on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives - a place called Gethsemane. Judas knew that Jesus was in the habit of going there for quiet time with His disciples. So, when his cover was blown by the omniscient Son of God, he left the Upper Room early and gathered his cohort of soldiers to meet up with Jesus in that precious place of quiet and prayer. In the mean time, Jesus finished up the Last Supper with the rest of His disciples and they went together to Gethsemane, as was their habit. Only this time, Jesus knew things would be different…so did the disciples. He set them apart in two groups and went off alone to pray and allow the Father to prepare Him for the ordeal to follow. This place of quiet and intimate fellowship became a place of sorrow, prayer and betrayal. As Jesus was pouring His heart out to His Father, Judas was busy making final preparations to bring the mob out to capture Jesus. He prayed and Judas schemed. He prepared His heart and mind while Judas prepared his murderous band.
The precious Mount of Olives became the scene of betrayal.
IV. TRANSITION ON THE MOUNT (Acts 1:4-12)
After the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples at least 10 times over a period of forty days. He appeared to them in the Upper Room at least twice, on the road to Emmaus, on a hillside in Galilee, along the Sea of Galilee and on the Mount of Olives. That last time is what we want to talk about for a minute here this morning. On Jesus' final day on earth, He led His disciples out to the Mount of Olives and shared a few final thoughts with them (Acts 1:4ff). Then, He simply began to ascend. He left earth in miraculous fashion. Of course, it was no big deal for Someone who had walked on water to just begin to float and disappear from view on the way to His Heavenly Father. However, for the disciples, it was yet another spectacular evidence that this was, in fact, the Son of God. They were mesmerized. So much so that God sent two angels to snap them out of it and send them on their way back to Jerusalem. This place of communion and prayer and sorrow and betrayal became the place of separation and promise. "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." In other words, He will descend from the clouds just as he ascended into the clouds. He will come back for us some day, and then with us to the very same place.
The Mount of Olives became the scene of transition - for Jesus and His disciples. And that takes us to our final point.
V. TRIUMPH ON THE MOUNT (Zechariah 14:1-9)
The prophet Zechariah had a lot to say about the appearance of the Messiah. In chapter 14, he spoke of the Day of the LORD, about a battle in Jerusalem that would go badly for the Jews until Messiah, Jesus comes back and touches His feet to the summit of the Mount of Olives. At that moment the hill will split in half "from east to west" and create "a very large valley". Jerusalem sits on a fault line. The fault line runs east from the city through the Mount of Olives. A massive earthquake could accomplish exactly what Zechariah prophesied. Not only will the mountain split, it will move. The northern part will move to the north and the southern part to the south. The resulting valley will be the way of escape for God's people. They will flee east to safety and God will fight against the assembled armies of the world. It will be no contest. Messiah's victory will accomplish the utter defeat and destruction of His enemies. "This same Jesus…will so come in like manner as you have seen Him go…" Back to the Mount of Olives in power and majesty. That didn't happen in 70 AD (as the Preterists claim); but it will happen at the end of the Tribulation.
The Mount of Olives will become the launching point for total victory.
This is an amazing hill. It was the site of much of what took place in Jesus' life and ministry. It was where he taught, and prayed and fellowshipped with God and man. It's where he rode in triumph and wept in agony. It's the place where He was betrayed and where He will ultimately be victorious. It speaks to us of who Jesus is and what our relationship to Him should be. When we stood in the Garden of Gethsemane, we saw Olive trees that are 2000 years old. They witnessed the life of Christ. They are mute testimony to the suffering and triumph of our Savior. Today, we are living, breathing, speaking testimony to the saving power of Jesus Christ. If you have never acknowledged Jesus for who He is; if you have never placed your faith in Him to save you from the penalty of your sin, why not make today the day? His ministry the Mount of Olives was for you. Will you trust Him to finish the job in your heart?