“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mark 14:26).
The Mount of Olives is east of Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley. Jesus often traveled this route, to rest, pray or continue on to Bethany just a couple of miles away. As the name suggests, the hillside was once covered with olive groves. By Jesus’ time you would also find the tombs of kings, prophets and David’s son Absalom. Today, there are over 150,000 graves on that hillside.
Jesus staged his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives (Mark 11:1). He also taught about the end times here (Matthew 24:3ff). From this unique vantage point, Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). It may also have been the site of Jesus’ ascension into heaven (Acts 1:12).
What do you think? Did they sneak out of the city, since they knew there was a plan to arrest Jesus? Did Jesus take them out there because he knew that’s the first place Judas would lead the mob looking for him? Did they go there because that’s what they did when they wanted to get away from the crowds, the questions, and the constant demands for signs and miracles? Or did Jesus just need a moment before God’s plan of salvation came to a head?
Before a TV talk show guest comes on stage or puts on headphones for a radio interview, they wait in the green room. It’s where they relax, have something to eat or drink, and get their thoughts together before they are introduced. Such rooms are usually well-stocked with the guest’s favorite drinks and food and anything else the contract rider specifies. You could think of the Mount of Olives as the green room before the big show, Jesus’ arrest, conviction and crucifixion.
Where do you go to get your thoughts together? My favorite spot is the empty sanctuary. That’s where I rehearse my sermons, practice trumpet music, jot down prayer notes, think about an upcoming worship service or reflect upon the one that just ended. Sometimes those moments fill my head with ideas. Other times that space clears my mind.
Less that two years ago, I got to stand on the Mount of Olives with some friends from church on a tour of Israel. We looked down across the Kidron Valley to the temple mount and the city of Jerusalem. It looks a lot different now. There aren’t many olive trees left. We saw grave markers, buildings and tour buses.
From this vantage point, Jesus would have seen a city bustling with tired but joyful pilgrims, the Roman military presence, an impressive temple built in his honor, and the stirred-up crowds who would soon demand, “Crucify him!”
Was Jesus’ mind filled with memories from his trips to Jerusalem? Or was his mind clear, focused on the task before him?
Heavenly Father, thank you for those places and spaces that inspire, humble and prepare us for the days ahead. Amen.