Mysterious Biblical Connections: Jacob’s Ladder, Jesus, and the Mount of Olives.


Jacob’s Ladder

Even a casual reader of the Gospels will quickly come to understand that Jesus was quite fond of the Mount of Olives, located to the east of Jerusalem, and extending for some distance to the north and to the south.

The town of Bethany, where Jesus was known to spend time relaxing with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary is located on the eastern slope of the mount, with the Garden of Gethsemane to the west.

Jesus was also known to frequent the Mount of Olives as a place of prayer, and even, to occasionally spend the night there.

Jesus ascended to Heaven from the Mount of Olives, and the Book of Zechariah informs us that Jesus will return there, too: At the end of time, Jesus will first set foot on the Mount of Olives, and then triumphantly proceed into Jerusalem, through the long-sealed, eastern (golden) gate.

We know also that Jesus, the night before he suffered and died, experienced agony on the Mount of Olives. He was comforted there, by angels. Then he was betrayed by Judas, and finally taken captive by the Temple guards.

The Mount of Olives seems to be a very unusual place. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, whose name was later changed to Israel, spent a very interesting night there, too:

Genesis 28:11-17  And when he was come to a certain place, and would rest in it after sunset, he took of the stones that lay there, and putting under his head, slept in the same place. And he saw in his sleep a ladder standing upon the earth, and the top thereof touching heaven: the angels also of God ascending and descending by it.

And the Lord leaning upon the ladder saying to him: I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: The land, wherein thou sleepest, I will give to thee and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth: thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and IN THEE and thy seed, all the tribes of the earth SHALL BE BLESSED. And I will be thy keeper whithersoever thou goest, and will bring thee back into this land: neither will I leave thee, till I shall have accomplished all that I have said.

And when Jacob awaked out of sleep, he said: Indeed the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. And trembling, he said: How terrible is this place? this is no other but the house of God, and the gate of heaven.

In light of all this, it’s no wonder that Jesus also showed a distinct affinity for the Mount of Olives!

On the mount of sacrifice, God himself will provide.


Genesis 22:2-18 He said to him: Take thy only begotten son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and go into the land of vision; and there thou shalt offer him for an holocaust upon one of the mountains which I will show thee. So Abraham rising up in the night, saddled his ass, and took with him two young men, and Isaac his son: and when he had cut wood for the holocaust, he went his way to the place which God had commanded him.

And on the third day, lifting up his eyes, he saw the place afar off. And he said to his young men: Stay you here with the ass; I and the boy will go with speed as far as yonder, and after we have worshiped, will return to you. And he took the wood for the holocaust, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he himself carried in his hands fire and a sword. And as they two went on together, Isaac said to his father: My father. And he answered: What wilt thou, son? Behold, saith he, fire and wood: where is the victim for the holocaust?

And Abraham said: God will provide himself a victim for an holocaust, my son. So they went on together.

And they came to the place which God had shewn him, where he built an altar, and laid the wood in order upon it; and when he had bound Isaac his son, he laid him on the altar upon the pile of wood. And he put forth his hand, and took the sword, to sacrifice his son. And behold, an angel of the Lord from heaven called to him, saying: Abraham, Abraham. And he answered: Here I am. And he said to him: Lay not thy hand upon the boy, neither do thou any thing to him: now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake.

Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw behind his back a ram, amongst the briers, sticking fast by the horns, which he took and offered for a holocaust instead of his son.

And he called the name of that place, The Lord seeth. Whereupon, even to this day, it is said: In the mountain the Lord will see. And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, saying: By my own self have I sworn, saith the Lord: because thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake: I will bless thee, and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the sea shore; thy seed shall possess the gates of their enemies. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice.


Editor’s note: The Book of Genesis, written by Moses, about 1500 B.C. contains many, many prophetic words and types, but few passages are as theologically “rich” as Genesis 22, the events of which date back to around 2000 B.C.

Just a few of the key parallels between Abraham’s sacrifice and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ:

  • A three-day process.
  • A beast of burden prominently figures here … and in the Christmas narrative … and on Palm Sunday.
  • Abraham’s Mount Moriah is the actual location of Mount Calvary (Golgotha) as well as the entire Jerusalem Temple complex.
  • Isaac, the designated sacrificial victim, carries the wood for the sacrifice.
  • Isaac is called Abraham’s “only begotten son”.
  • The designated victim is “flanked” by two others.
  • Isaac asks a few questions, but he never complains.
  • God provides the sacrificial victim – a perfect ram.
  • The ram’s head was caught in a thicket of thorns.
  • After three days, Abraham’s son was safely returned to him.
  • Both were obedient to God’s will, even unto death.
  • God’s providence saved Isaac, and indirectly, Isaac’s future son … Jacob/Israel … the “source” of the 12 tribes.
  • From Israel would eventually come Jesus Christ, in whom all the nations of the earth would indeed be blessed.
  • The Church that Jesus founded would go on to “possess the gates of their enemies” … and most importantly … the gates of hell would never prevail against it.

Why the Sadducees didn’t believe in the Resurrection … and how Jesus set them straight!

The Resurrection: Sistine Chapel

Fundamentally, they rejected the resurrection due to the fact that they accepted only the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Now this is somewhat debated among scholars but for our purposes we can surely say that if something was not explicitly in the Law of Moses, they were unlikely to accept it. All the other Old Testament books such as the prophets, the historical books, the psalms, and the wisdom tradition were set aside by them as authoritative sources. They further claimed that, in these first five books, the resurrection of the dead was not taught. Most other Jews of Jesus’ time did accept the complete Old Testament, and teachings such as the resurrection of the dead which are set forth there, but the Sadducees simply did not. They were a small party within Judaism (Josephus said they were able to persuade none but the rich). Nevertheless they were influential due especially to their wealth and to the fact that they predominated among the Temple leadership. You can read more of them here: Sadducees

Hence the Sadducees arrive to poke fun at Jesus and all others who held that the dead would rise. They are no match for Jesus who easily dispatches their arguments. And Jesus uses the Book of Exodus, a book they accept to do it. In effect Jesus argument proceeds as such:

You accept Moses, do you not?
(To which they would surely reply yes)

But Moses teaches that the dead will rise.
(Jesus must have gotten puzzled looks but he presses on).

You accept that God is a God of the living and not the dead?
(To which they would surely reply yes).

Then why does God in Exodus identify himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, all of whom have been dead (for hundreds of) years? How can he call himself their God if they are dead?
Obviously they are alive, for he could not call himself their God, for he is not a God of the dead but of the living.

So they are alive to God. They are not dead.

Hence Jesus dispatches their view. For us the point is to see how forcefully and clearly Jesus upholds the fact that the dead are alive in the Lord. He powerfully asserts an essential doctrine of the Church and we should rejoice at how firmly Jesus rebukes their disbelief in the resurrection of the dead. Rejoice! For your loved ones are alive before God . To this world they may seem dead, but Jesus tells us firmly and clearly today, they live. Likewise we too, who will face physical death will also live on. Let the world ridicule this, but hear what Jesus says and how he easily dispatches them. Though ridiculed, the resurrection is real.

Editor’s note: There are many living today who do not believe in the resurrection of the body, let alone that Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. The Catholic Church, along with 2000 years of systematic Catholic scholarship and superb theology, and the most successful philosophy of life that the world has ever known, remains the living the eye-witness to the truth of the Gospels, until Jesus comes again.

Those who, for whatever reason, fail to participate fully in all of the work, worship, sacraments and devotions of the Catholic Church have a lot in common with the Sadducees. And that’s just … sad!

In word, types, figures and events, the Old Testament prefigures the New.


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On the Feast of the John The Baptist: A Strange and Wonderful, Though Long Delayed Answer

Birth of St. John the Baptist

To understand the moment we must go back in time to approximately 1900 BC. The place is a hillside called Moriah where Jerusalem would later be built. Abraham has been commended there by God where he has been told to prepare to kill him in sacrifice. Upon arriving at the foot of Moriah the text says,

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”  ”Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. ”The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb…? (Gen 22:6-8)

Do not miss the great foreshadowing here: A long promised son, about to die, carrying wood upon his shoulders ascending the very hillside where Jerusalem and Golgotha will one day be located. Yes this is a wondrous foreshadowing.

And then comes the great question to his Father: “But, Where is the Lamb?” Yes, indeed, where is the Lamb who will die so that I don’t have to? Where is the Lamb whose blood will save my life? Where is the Lamb?

Now you know the rest of that story. An angel stopped Abraham and then pointed to a ram, with it’s horns in the thicket. And you may be excused for saying, “Aha, God did provide the Lamb. End of story.” But truth be told, this ram, this lamb cannot really save Isaac. Because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Heb 10:4) Isaac’s death is merely postponed and then it is off to Sheol with him where he will lie and wait for the True Lamb who alone can give eternal life.

And so, that question got wafted up on to the breeze and echoed down through the Centuries that followed: “But, where is the Lamb…..where is the Lamb?”

And now we are standing by the banks of the Jordan River 19 Centuries later and John the Baptist sees a full grown man coming toward him and says a very strange thing: “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” (Jn 1:29) Yes, there is the  true Lamb who alone can take away our sins. John the Baptist supplies a strange and wonderful, though long delayed answer to a question Isaac asked 1,900 years before. Where is the Lamb?  THERE is the Lamb!

Happy birthday of John the Baptist.

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Abraham and Isaac, the sacrifice, and the prophetic word

isaac-sacrifice.jpgjccarriescrossenh.jpg

 Holy Week is fast approaching.

Someone recently asked: “Does Genesis 22 make any sense to anyone who isn’t Christian?

Gen 22:2 He said to him: Take thy only begotten son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and go into the land of vision; and there thou shalt offer him for an holocaust upon one of the mountains which I will shew thee.
Gen 22:3 So Abraham rising up in the night, saddled his ass, and took with him two young men, and Isaac his son: and when he had cut wood for the holocaust, he went his way to the place which God had commanded him.
Gen 22:4 And on the third day, lifting up his eyes, he saw the place afar off.
Gen 22:5 And he said to his young men: Stay you here with the ass; I and the boy will go with speed as far as yonder, and after we have worshipped, will return to you.
Gen 22:6 And he took the wood for the holocaust, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he himself carried in his hands fire and a sword. And as they two went on together,
Gen 22:7 Isaac said to his father: My father. And he answered: What wilt thou, son? Behold, saith he, fire and wood: where is the victim for the holocaust?
Gen 22:8 And Abraham said: God will provide himself a victim for an holocaust, my son. So they went on together.
Gen 22:9 And they came to the place which God had shewn him, where he built an altar, and laid the wood in order upon it; and when he had bound Isaac his son, he laid him on the altar upon the pile of wood.
Gen 22:10 And he put forth his hand, and took the sword, to sacrifice his son.
Gen 22:11 And behold, an angel of the Lord from heaven called to him, saying: Abraham, Abraham. And he answered: Here I am.
Gen 22:12 And he said to him: Lay not thy hand upon the boy, neither do thou any thing to him: now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake.
Gen 22:13 Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw behind his back a ram, amongst the briers, sticking fast by the horns, which he took and offered for a holocaust instead of his son.

The questioner went on to wonder if non-Christians, particularly Jews and Muslims, saw any deeper meaning in this passage, and then he went on to describe what he could see in it.

This was my reply:

A-a-a-h, but to a discerning Christian, it is the story of the lamb, and the story of Calvary, as revealed in Old Testament types and symbols.

Isaac was the son of promise … not Ishmael. And since Ishmael was banished, along with his mom … Isaac alone remains … so truly is the “only” son.

The story of the faithful and obedient son, who carries on his back, the wood for the sacrifice.

A 3-day journey.

The wood signifies the cross.

The mountain is Moriah … later known as Golgotha and Calvary.

The lamb is Christ.

The brier thicket is the crown of thorns.

Abraham and Isaac are a people saved by faith, faith that is signified and memorialized by the blood of the lamb.

And why should God sacrifice his own son for a people who wouldn’t do the same for him, anyway?