“After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, . . . ” Luke 19:28
On our trip to Israel in spring of 2019, Tra and I did get a chance to go to the Mt. of Olives, a hilly informal plot of land where ancient olive trees and stones are planted. But we looked out across the Kidron Valley (as seen below) and saw what Jesus may have seen.
From the Mount of Olives Jesus and his disciples saw the great city of Jerusalem, the City of David, Zion, the Eternal City. The picture below is the 2019 version of Jerusalem as seen from the Mt. of Olives. The gold dome¹ covers the Jewish Temple Mount, the cornerstone of the temple that was standing when Jesus and his disciples looked over the city.
What did Jesus feel when He saw the Eternal City that day?
He saw the ancient Jewish temple that King Herod the Great had re-built.² He knew about the central structure, the “Holy of Holies,” in which hung the veil that would be “rent asunder” the moment He died on the cross.
The Tower of David and the city walls built by Herod the Great, pictured here, 2019.
He saw Herod the Great’s magnificent renovations to the temple and the more magnificent palace dominating the city-scape. Herod was famous as Rome’s master builder. But for Jesus and his Jewish followers, this Herod was the same man responsible—just 33 years before—for the mass murder of all Jewish boys under 2-years old. It was Herod’s attempt to eliminate the baby who was Jesus, now a man who was viewing the city from the Mt. of Olives. How did Jesus and His disciples feel when they saw the palace of this mass-murderer in their Holy City?
Adjacent to the temple stood Antonia’s Fortress, another architectural masterpiece, Herod’s monument honoring the Roman leader Marc Antony. This fortress is where the governor’s of Rome would stay the following weekend–the weekend of Christ’s crucifixion–because it was from Antonia’s Fortress that they would have a clear and up-close view of Golgotha.
¹The gold dome, now famously called “The Dome of the Rock,” was built by a Moslem caliph in the 7th century C.E. For the Moslems, it commemorates the place from where Mohammed was lifted for his sacred Night Journey, a visit to Allah in heaven. No Jews or Christians are allowed in the “Dome of the Rock.”
²A model of the Temple, which would have stood where the Golden Dome is now seen. The image comes from the Oxford Biblical Studies on-line.