One of the more meaningful moments of any journey to Israel is the opportunity to walk the “Palm Sunday” route down the Mount of Olives. We do not know which path He took, though today there are few options. We do know he came down that hill somewhere. A couple of things remain authentic about that walk.
First, it is steep, as it must have been in the first century since the topography has not changed significantly.
Second, the view is unforgettable. As Jesus came over the crest of the Mount of Olives (from Bethany on the far side) the gleaming temple mount would have come into view in all its splendor. The Temple’s gold would have glistened in the sunlight. It would have been a beehive of activity as this was Passover week.
And don’t forget that it was the view which entangled Jesus in emotion. He saw the city of Jerusalem sprawling before Him, filled with people…and…He wept. Of course (note the sarcasm), there is a church built at the place where he wept, which of course we know (more sarcasm). It is a small chapel, with the best view across the Kidron Valley at about the same level as the Temple Mount. It is on the grounds of that church that you can see how they buried their dead in ossuaries and understand why Jesus would say, “Let the dead bury the dead.” He wasn’t heartless, he knew instead what a flimsy excuse that was for not following Him. And there were no good excuses anyway.
But the journey down that “road” is also a little inauthentic, too. Beside the motorcycles, off your left is the oldest and most important Jewish cemetery in Israel. It is 500 years old, and a plot can cost up to $30,000. It contains between 70,000 – 150,000 tombs, wrapping around the Mt. of Olives to the south. It adds a touch of solemnity to the walk that should be full of joyful “Hosannas.” It always reminds me of the purpose of any visit to The Land. We go to learn the story of redemption and discover the role of the land in that story.
This morning, we will not spend much time on the details of Palm Sunday, only because we are continuing our journey through Matthew. But what happened today, one week before the King died, is important. And it is The Land that provides some context.
There are maps in the back of your Bible for a reason. Maps are useful only for things that are real. And Passion Week is real. It is the most real and truest story ever. So real that we stake our lives on it. Well, on Him. Hosanna!