As I’ve mentioned before, in 2010 I had the amazing privilege of touring Israel with a group of Christian journalists. It was an intense trip–both exhausting in its demands (we saw as much as we possibly could cram into the time we were there) and nearly overwhelming in its tutelage–and I had to come back home and think about it for a while before I could really absorb all I had experienced and learned.
Israel is not much larger than New Jersey, and by touring constantly we were able to see quite a bit of the country. My favorite spot was Jerusalem, where we spent a few days exploring various spots in and around the city. Seeing this beautiful place helped me understand the significance of some of the locations frequently mentioned in the Bible; some of them would be impossible to miss in the landscape, especially in ancient times.
One such place is the Mount of Olives. It’s easy to see why this place has landmark status. It’s a mountain near the Old City, outside the wall but within view. It hosts a large and very visible Jewish cemetery, in use since ancient times. It’s a great spot to look over the city and the massive Temple Mount, now topped by the Dome of the Rock.
In reviewing biblical history, it’s easy to see the significance of this place in the lives of God’s people. In preparation for visiting the site, I looked to see how many biblical events took place at the Mount of Olives, and I was struck by how momentous this location is in Scripture. Here are a few important connections:
• Solomon built altars to the gods of his wives on this mountain—and they worshiped them here, in what Scripture refers to as “high places” (1 Kings 11:7-8).
• After the Book of Law was rediscovered during King Josiah’s reign, he destroyed the altars Solomon had built here, which was then called The Hill of Corruption (2 Kings 23:13).
• King David ascended the Mount of Olives as he ran away from Absalom (2 Samuel 15:30).
• Ezekiel refers to the glory of the Lord ascending the Mount of Olives when prophesying of the Jews’ return to Israel from Babylonian exile (Ezekiel 11:23).
• Jesus and his disciples hung out here (Matthew 26:30).
• This is where Jesus taught his disciples about the signs of the end of the age (Matthew 24).
• This is where Jesus and his disciples were when he sent two of them ahead to find the donkey on which he rode into Jerusalem in what we know as the Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21:1).
•And this is where, on his way into Jerusalem, Jesus wept over the city and prophesied its destruction (Luke 19:41-44).
• Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9-12).
• Some believe this is the spot where Jesus will return (Acts 1:11).
• Jesus used this as a place to rest after teaching in Jerusalem (Luke 21:37).
(There’s more! If you want to see other passages that feature the Mount of Olives, just type in “Mount of Olives” in the search box on Bible Gateway. The number of references will change with different translations.)
At the time, I felt a little sheepish to acknowledge the last was the one that really caught my eye. After all, it was not the deepest, most exciting, or most significant. But it was particularly relevant to me that day for two reasons. First, it was a Friday, and that evening Jerusalem became a place of quiet rest as observant Jews prepared to honor Shabbat, or the Sabbath. And second, after a week of long days touring the Holy Land, I was tired. I had rest on my mind.
If the concept of rest hadn’t been so pertinent to my circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have given much (or any) thought to the significance of the Mount of Olives as a place of rest for Jesus. I appreciate rest for its physical benefits (finally–I used to disregard it until I couldn’t anymore), but I tend to overlook its spiritual significance. When I stop to think about it, I realize rest can be a form of spiritual practice.
If you’re like most people (and I’ll bet you are), you can always find more to do. Yet if we neglect our need for rest, we disregard our human limitations. Never mind the obvious consequences to our health and effectiveness. God could have created us without need for rest, and he didn’t. I believe that’s important.
As followers of Jesus, we have so much to learn from him. He is, of course, our ultimate example. If Jesus, who was both God and human, needed to rest in a peaceful place, how much more do we need to rest, acknowledging our human limitations and our dependence on God.
Like Adam and Eve, and everyone since, we’re so easily tempted with the lie that we can be like God, and that therefore we don’t need him. Resting is one way to acknowledge we are human, we do have limitations, and we can’t do everything—we are dependent on God.
This evening, I’m going to take a few moments to follow Jesus’ example and rest. Why don’t you find a few minutes today to do the same?
© 2016 Amy Simpson.