The Mount of Olives is a prominent location throughout both Old and New Testaments. It is first mentioned in 2 Samuel 15:30, where David takes refuge from Jerusalem on it, and weeps about his son’s iniquity. Later, in Zechariah 14:4, there is a prophecy that the coming of the Lord will be on the Mount of Olives. For Jews, therefore, the mount is a holy place awaiting the Messiah. For Christians, the location also has holy, eschatological status, but because their Messiah - Jesus - spent much time their, as Zechariah prophesied. Jesus would have passed over the mount multiple times going to and from festivals in Jerusalem. This is first explicitly mentioned in John 8:1. All the other references to the mount are during and after Passion Week, enhancing its eschatological status:
-Jesus passed the Mount of Olives on triumphal entry (Luke 19:29)
-Jesus wept over the Holy City (Luke 19:41)
-Jesus taught the disciples about the destruction of Jerusalem and the ‘end times’ (Matt 24:3 and Mark 13:3)
-The Garden of Gethsemane is on the Western slopes of the mount, where Jesus sweat blood before he was captured for interrogation after Judas’ betrayal.
The latent significance of the mount can be teased out by exploring the rich biblical symbolism of the olive. Firstly, the olive tree is equated to Israel, as in Romans 11:16-7. However, the olive tree is also symbolic of the presence of God. The Tabernacle in the Old Testament was an olive grove, and the Holy of Holies was guarded by two angels made of olive wood. Since all priests were anointed with oil, it has connotations of sanctification, and for Christians, is representative of the Holy Spirit. The olive tree was also the first to grow after the flood in Genesis, signifying the renewal of God’s kingdom. Thus, when Jesus moves to the Mount of Olives at the end of his ministry, he is moving to a garden form of the Holy of Holies to complete his work of renewing the kingdom of God.