While I could spend a lifetime in Israel exploring the many sites that display significant events in the life of Jesus, three stand out to me as exemplifying His humanity, earthly ministry, and divinity. All three are mountains with profound Biblical and historical significance.
Mount Precipice is a mountain in northern Israel with spectacular vistas filled with both natural beauty and historical relevance. For a Christian, there are few panoramas on earth where one can take in so many places of Biblical importance.
Your gaze will initially be drawn straight ahead, to the south, where fields stretch out far below across the valley floor. These are the planes of Armageddon (also called the Jezreel Valley). You can then turn to the east to marvel at Mount Tabor (also known as the Mount of Transfiguration), or to the west and see Mount Carmel. There are many interesting sights in all directions worthy of discussion; however, one of particular interest is opposite the valley.
Looking behind the valley, to the north, you can see the town of Nazareth, the place where the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would have a son. It is also the village that would prepare Jesus for His earthly ministry. Nazareth is the town where Jesus’ full humanity was manifested, where He grew up as a boy experiencing the vulnerability of childhood, and where He learned the trade of carpentry from his earthly father, Joseph.
It is also here that Jesus was pushed out of the synagogue as an adult after He declared that He was the Messiah. He was forced out of Nazareth and brought up Mount Precipice, where the people unsuccessfully tried to hurl him off the cliff.
When you look down from Mount Precipice today, it’s not difficult to imagine that the effects of such a fall would likely be fatal.
Nazareth is where He proclaimed, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown” (Luke 4:24). Many of the people who tried to throw Him off Mount Precipice probably knew Him from the time He was a child; yet, they wanted to kill Him rather than believe His claim that He was the Messiah. Nazareth is the town that raised Him, ridiculed Him, and rejected Him; it was a pattern He would repeatedly experience throughout His life and one that He warned His followers to expect as well.
The second mountain is the Mount of Beatitudes. The Mount of Beatitudes is a beautiful spot on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This site is the location of Jesus’ most extensive recorded sermon (Matthew 5-7)) and where He laid out a blueprint for Christian living in the New Covenant era. The site is a gently sloping hill with a bowl shape, making it a natural amphitheater.
This spot represents the essence of Jesus’ ministry on earth. When Jesus taught the Beatitudes during His “Sermon on the Mount,” His teaching turned everything people thought about the world on its head. While the accepted view of the day (much as it is today in many parts of the world) was that those possessing power lord it over others, Jesus said it is the meek and poor who are blessed. Instead of the strong and violent having authority over those who don’t, Jesus said it was the peacemakers who are blessed.
This countercultural proclamation has revolutionized the world right up to the modern-day. Jesus’ teaching proclaims that the strong ought to protect the weak and that differing opinions deserve to be heard. This worldview created an unmistakable distinction between societies that abide by the teaching of Jesus and societies that don’t. In short, Jesus laid a new framework for a New Covenant by which Christians are to live.
The third and final mountain, representative of Jesus’ time on earth, is the Mount of Olives. Quite possibly the most famous mountain in the Holy Land, the Mount of Olives is spectacular in its rich history and Biblical significance. Jews have been buried on its slopes since the First Temple period three thousand years ago.
Just across the Kidron Valley from the Old City of Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives is the place from which Jews have long believed the Messiah would come into Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives also holds special significance for Christians; they agree with the Jews that the Messiah comes into Jerusalem from the Mount; however, they simply believe the Messiah has already entered. Christians refer to this event as the Triumphal Entry when Jesus rode into Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago. He mounted a young colt and came on the road known as the “Palm Sunday Road” while the people shouted, “Hosanna in the highest!”
The Mount of Olives also was the place of Jesus’ arrest on the night of his betrayal. Finally, it is the spot from which Jesus ascended into heaven after delivering the Great Commission, and it is where many Christians believe He will return.
On Mount Precipice, you look down on Nazareth, where Jesus grew up as a boy. What more human condition is there than the weakness of childhood? Mount Precipice bears witness to Jesus’ humanity. The Mount of Beatitudes exemplifies Jesus’ earthly ministry, where He laid the framework for Christian living and a cultural revolution, the effects of which humanity is still experiencing today. Finally, the Mount of Olives reveals the divinity of Christ and His ultimate purpose for coming to earth. The Mount of Olives is where soldiers arrested Jesus and took Him so He could fulfill His fundamental mission of redemption through His crucifixion and resurrection to serve as an atonement for humanity’s sins. It was on the Mount of Olives that Jesus ascended into heaven and will return at the end of time.