Mount of Olives – The Journey to Easter

March 23, 2022  |  Redemption AZ

The Mount of Olives is a place that holds a large significance in the ministry of Jesus. Serving as a kind of basecamp for Jesus and His disciples when they are in and near Jerusalem during festivals, many moments recorded in the gospels occur in or near this beautiful and peaceful place.

In particular, Matthew 24 and the following few chapters record a lengthy section of teaching that Jesus gives to His disciples, sitting under the shade of the massive olive trees, gazing across the valley at the Temple Mount just a short distance away.

He is preparing them for the final confrontation that is to come with the religious authorities during the Passover festival. Jesus knows this confrontation will lead to His death and that the outcome of the next few days is going to be the critical climax of His mission. He also knows that what is to come is going to subvert expectations and confuse and frighten His friends. In love, He attempts to communicate to them a way to understand what is to come.

He assures them that the violence and conflict that they will witness is simply part of what will be an unraveling of a plan to bring the gospel of the kingdom to all nations (24:14). He assures them that even though He will leave, He will also return, (24:30) and with Him He will bring judgement on rebellion and justification for those that have kept their faith in Him. He tells them that no one but God knows when this will all happen (24:36) but that the promise is one that can be relied upon and trusted because it comes from the trustworthy One.

Chapter 25 of Matthew is filled with parables or stories that Jesus tells his disciples about how they are to operate in the in between. From when He leaves to when He returns. His teaching gives them direction, purpose and urgency to the mission He is leaving with them. Starting with the Parable of the Ten Virgins (25:1-13), He teaches them to be prepared for His return. That His delay should not be mistaken for a lack of intention to return to His people and His world. He instructs them to be on watch and ready for His arrival.

Verses 14-30, instructs His followers to be faithful and responsible stewards for the gifts he has given to them. To invest on behalf of our master, Jesus for the purpose of seeing His gifts bear fruit and grow kingdom rewards. This parable encourages us to be faithful with the little things we are entrusted with and to see the joy of God manifest in our lives as He entrusts us with more through faithfulness.

Jesus’ parables end in Chapter 25 with a striking story about the sorting of the sheep and the goats. The promise of the King toward the faithful sheep is that they will be included in the kingdom and inheritance to come while the warning to the goats is that they will be left out of the King’s reign and rule and goodness.

The shocking piece of the story Jesus tells his friends is that the determination of their faithfulness or lack thereof is their treatment of Him. Their care for Him when He was hungry, thirsty, unclothed, imprisoned demonstrates their commitment to the good and righteous ways of the King and their belonging to His kingdom to come. It demonstrates their commitment to the King’s ways.

He anticipates the servant’s confusion as they ask when they saw Him hungry, when they saw Him thirsty, naked and in prison. The shocking conclusion to this final story in the grove of olive trees is that Jesus associates Himself directly with anyone who is in need and lost and hungry and cast aside. He says that when they care for the stranger and the least of these, they are caring for Him.

As we continue our march toward the cross and the tomb remembered on Good Friday and Easter, these stories from the Mount of Olives, remind us of the call on us who call Jesus King. As we exist in the in between, we are called to be vigilant and on watch for His return. We are called to be faithful stewards of the gifts we have been entrusted with to invest and steward them for a kingdom return. And we are to care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the needy and the imprisoned because caring for them is caring for Jesus himself.

Lord, help us and keep us and give us the grace we need to be faithful in our calling as we wait for your return.

Pastor Jeremy Olimb