You’ve heard about it in countless sermons and sung many hymns in reference to it, so of course you want to visit the Mount of Olives for yourself. The same goes for the Garden of Gethsemane. But… Why? What really happened here, and why are these places still significant to us now? Here are all the good reasons to visit The Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane!
It has one of the best views of Jerusalem.
This seems like a superficial reason to visit at first. It really is a great place for photos of the Jerusalem cityscape, but it’s always been a great place for a view, even in Jesus’ time. He went to the Mount of Olives many times in his life, including in Luke 19:41-44 on his way to Jerusalem when he wept for the city:
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
It’s part of a yet-unfulfilled Jewish prophecy.
The Mount of Olives is home to a massive Jewish cemetery. Why? Because they believe this is where the Messiah will come. When that happens, the Mount of Olives will split in two, and the dead will rise from there first. So, if you’re Jewish and you’re buried on the Mount of Olives, you’ll ascend into Heaven first.
They believe this because in Tanakh (the Christians call this the Old Testament), Zechariah 14:3-4 says, “Then the Lord will go out and fight against all 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 the mountain moving south.”
Fun fact: The Mount of Olives Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in the world, and it’s active still today!
It’s part of a fulfilled prophesy for Christians.
For Christians, the prophesy that the Messiah will come happened when Jesus came. Psalm 118:26 reads, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” And in Luke 19:37-38, Jesus fulfills this verse. Luke writes, “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Zechariah 9:9 reads, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout Daughter of Jerusalem! See your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, on a foal of a donkey.” And in Luke 19:28-44, we read that Jesus did, in fact, ride from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem, which we often call the “Triumphal Entry,” on a donkey.
Jesus was also sitting on the Mount of Olives in Mark 13, within sight of Jerusalem and the Temple there, when his disciples Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him to tell them when the end of days would come. Read Mark 13:1-37 for his complete response, but essentially, this is the passage where Jesus says that there would be wars, nation against nation, earthquakes, famines, and that the disciples should be on their guard because no one knows the date or time of Jesus’ second coming.
Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives.
Luke 22:39 says that after the Last Supper, “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.” He asked God to take the cup from him, meaning he was asking for his blood not to be shed in the way he knew was coming, but in the same breath he expressed his desire for God’s ultimate will to be done.
In verses 43 and 44, Luke writes that “An angel from Heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
This is where Judas betrayed Jesus.
It was on the Mount of Olives, in Mark 14:42-50 that Judas kissed Jesus to let the guards know whom to arrest. After praying for God to take the cup from him, Jesus was talking to his disciples and said to them in verse 42, “Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer.” He saw Judas coming. Judas gave the signal, a kiss, and Jesus was arrested and taken for his trial in Jerusalem.
This is the place where Jesus ascended into Heaven after the resurrection.
For Christians, this is certainly the most important reason to want to visit the Mount of Olives. We can read about that in Luke 24:50-53. The town of Bethany is on the east side of the Mount of Olives, which is where Jesus led the disciples to bless them after the resurrection, before his ascension into Heaven. Afterward, “Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”
Is the Mount of Olives on your “must-go” list while in Israel? Take your Bible with you, and read the passages above while you’re there, and see if it changes your understanding of what happened here, and how it affects your faith.