It is time in this series of sermons on the mounts to look at the mountains Jesus was teaching on. Jesus in Matthew 21:21 repeated a phrase He used in Matthew 17:20-this mountain. The Greek phrase is houtos oros. In Strong’s, (this) houtos is 3778 and (mountain) oros is 3735. This surprised me because I did not expect “this” to have its own specific word. I expected it to be an added word so we could understand the translation.
My simple conclusion about the phrase is that Jesus stood on the mountain and was specifically talking about that mountain. (In my early days of being a Christian, I thought it said “a or any” mountain.) John 16:25 has Jesus commenting about how He has spoken figuratively to His disciples. This was on Thursday of Holy Week. So, we can conclude that there is a second level of meanings to the fig tree and the mountain. More on this thought later.
To set the narrative for this, I will use Mark 11:12-14 and 20-26. My belief is Mark not only used his uncle Peter as a reference source, but he was an eyewitness observer to these days from the Jordan to Pentecost. Mark gives the details that Jesus cursed the fig tree on Monday morning going into the city, so He could clear the Temple, and then Tuesday morning, Peter noticed the tree dead. This ushered in the first half of the sermon about the actual mountains of this story-the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount/Jerusalem. The path from Bethany to Jerusalem would have taken the disciples through Bethphage (the house of unripe or new figs) down into the Kidron Valley and then into the city. In other words, the path Jesus took during His foretold ride on the donkey. To add to the history lesson, I need to include that David also followed this path from the Jordan to Jerusalem. He fled Absalom in 2 Samuel 15:30 to the east bank of the Jordan, but in 2 Samuel 20:2, it is the same path that the returning king took back to the city. David also had a parade that would have looked a lot like what Jesus had during his trip.
So, it is possible that the first teaching of the day occurs in Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, the place of unripe figs. From my studies on the Tree of Knowledge in Genesis, I still believe that tree was a fig tree and that the Tree of Life was some type of “grape tree/wood”. Okay, back to the mounts.
The end part of this sermon occurs when Jesus is leaving the Temple and announces that Jerusalem, The Temple Mount, will be destroyed. He then teaches more about the end times once He is back on the Mount of Olives.
The Mount of Olives
I gave the fact that David would have fled and returned across this mount; it not named in that story in 2 Samuel. The Mount is clearly identified seven times in our Christian Bible. (The website is a travel company for Israel.)
1 Kings 11:7-8 Solomon built pagan altars for his wives on the mount.
Ezekiel 11:23 Part of a vision, God’s glory leaves Jerusalem and settles over/on its ridge.
Zechariah 14:3-4 The Messiah returns, stands on the mount and it splits; the valley carries water (dirt/mountain) to two different seas. The Messiah returning here is why many Jews want to be buried on its slopes. So, it is/was covered in whitewashed tombs.
Luke 19:29-44 Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The Gospels allude to the fact that Jesus left Jerusalem every day and went to Bethany for the night (Martha and Mary’s house, possibly).
Matthew 24:27-31 Jesus gave a sermon about His return (part of this series).
Matthew 26: 30-57 After the last meal, they came here to pray.
Acts 1: 1-12 Jesus ascended from here to return to the Father.
The Temple Mount/Jerusalem
Okay, to separate the Temple Mount and Jerusalem maybe splitting hairs but they were not always one thing. From Melchizedek to David, the city did not include the Temple Mount. David bought the Mount in order to sacrifice on it to stop a plague that he chose as punishment. Abraham took Isaac to Moriah, which we think is the Temple Mount. Joshua defeats a king and takes him to Jerusalem to die, and David defeated the city by using the city’s underground water system.
There are two Jerusalems, the earthly one and the heavenly one. Which one does God love the most? I will go with the heavenly city. The earthly one has been a problem for Him. Please read through the prophets before you condemn me. May I reserve comment on the fact that twice the city and the Temple have been leveled by foreign armies. There are also a couple of times when the place was looted but not destroyed. To be fair, on His ride into the city, Jesus cried for/over the city. His end-time teaching on the Mount of Olives may have come from the same spot He had cried at several days earlier.
Solomon built the Temple Mount up to have a level spot to build David’s dream. (The Wailing Wall is a retaining wall for the Second Temple; Herod’s building that Jesus taught in.) Zerubbabel (an ancestor of Jesus) actually built the Second Temple and Herod added to that building.
Well, one thing is certain; Jerusalem and the mountains still have a role to play in the future of God’s plan.
A Second Meaning
To keep with the idea of sermons on the mounts, we must start with the fig tree. Normally, I say that figs represent the works of man trying to please God. If we follow that idea through Tuesday and Jesus teaching we see the fig cursed, the Temple cleared, corrupt leaders called out, a prediction that the Temple of Herod (an earthly work) will be destroyed, and a set of parables on what the Kingdom looks like.
Mountains and the sea have grown to more than I expected. To call a mountain just a problem or trial in your life just does not seem to fit. Mountains and their metaphors are so much more than obstacles and something to walk around or climb over. Seas and water are also deep in double meaning. These two topics will just have to be explored this year.