Just East of the city of Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley and dotted with olive groves, stands a very famous hill. This hill is appropriately named the Mount of Olives. Many approaching Jerusalem from Jericho in the East would walk up and over this hill to get to the “city of peace.” 2,000 years ago, a very special approach was made over the Mount of Olives by a very famous Person – Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The particular journey of Jesus I am referring to is what we know of today as “Palm Sunday” – one week prior to His resurrection two millennia ago.
I have been to Israel and stood on the Mount of Olives, looking at the city of Jerusalem from that angle. If you were to stand on the Mount of Olives western slope and look at the city of Jerusalem, you would notice something peculiar about your surroundings … you would be surrounded by graves! As a part of the “Social Security” program in Israel today, the government will pay for their citizen’s burial expenses in most circumstances. I say “most,” because people can pay for an upgraded location for their burial. Many, many Israelis have paid the fee to be buried on the western slope of the Mount of Olives, overlooking the city of Jerusalem. Now why would they do that? Because of the view? Well, yes … and no.
The view of the city IS impressive, but it is not the current scenery that has people paying the up charge. It is the view IN THE FUTURE that has people investing their inheritance. According to Zechariah 14, when the Messiah returns to Israel, He will land on the Mount of Olives and approach the city of Jerusalem from the east. Devout Jews, in anticipation of their Messiah’s arrival, are buried, feet facing the city, so that when Messiah comes and raises the faithful dead, they will be ready to join Him in a triumphal procession on the last day.
To commemorate and honor the dead buried on the hillside of the Mount of Olives, modern Jews place rocks (not flowers) on the stone enclosures in which their loved ones are buried.
So, on the Mount of Olives, there are graves covered in rocks, of expectant (yet deceased) Jews awaiting their Messiah’s return. Seeing this scene adds a bit of poignant irony to what Jesus said as He was entering the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
That day many were singing and shouting praises to Jesus as their hopeful Messiah and King. The Pharisees saw what was developing and came to Jesus and said, “rebuke your disciples and tell them to be quiet” (the obvious implication being that the Pharisees did not believe Jesus was the Messiah so it was inappropriate for Him to receive this praise.) But Jesus responded:
“I tell you, if these were silent the VERY STONES would cry out!”
In a general sense, Jesus was saying, “it is RIGHT for these people to honor me this way because I AM the Messiah and all of creation knows it … even the rocks!”
However, as I think about that hillside, I am reminded of those rocks I saw on the graves of people waiting for Messiah to come … He already came, and they missed HIM! Those rocks cry out for a Messiah that came 2,000 years ago, walking down that very hill … in some cases, walking past those very stones.
Thankfully He is coming again for all the world to see, but in the mean time, let’s not let another moment go by when we don’t recognize Jesus for who He really is and worship Him with all our hearts. We will try to do that this Palm Sunday, March 28, at Wildwood Community Church in our 9:00, 10:15, and 11:30 services as we look at Luke 19:28-44 in our Palm Sunday celebration. Hope to see you then … and bring friends!
NOTE: The 10:15 service will be live-streamed at wildwoodchurch.org/live
NOTE 2: If you are interested in going to Israel with myself and Mark Burget as guides over Spring Break 2022, message me and I will get you the details. We still have a few spots left on that trip! Would love to stand on the Mount of Olives with you and talk about this again!