Reflections on Life & Liberty
You Can’t Keep God Out

How sturdy must a wall be built to keep God out? And why are we so insistent on trying? Those questions weigh on me each time I stand on Mount Olivet, looking out over Jerusalem’s ancient city walls.

Though today it is covered with family crypts, 2,000 years ago, the hillside we know as the Mount of Olives was dotted with olive groves, producing both its name and the region’s most important fruit. But its place in history is even more significant.

Before entering Jerusalem in the last week of His ministry, Jesus looked out over the city from the Mount of Olives and wept for His people. Before being arrested, Jesus went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, which is nestled on the hillside above the Kidron Valley.

For modern visitors, the Mount of Olives is a convenient point from which to photograph the ancient walls of the Old City, the Temple Mount, and the Golden Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine.

One detail jumps out. From the Mount of Olives, you are looking directly at the Old City’s wall. There you see the outline of what would have been the massive Eastern Gate (also called the “Golden Gate.”) It was permanently sealed in 1541 by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman, a Muslim.

The Jewish crypts blanketing the Mount of Olives were placed there for the same reason the Muslims sealed the gate: this is where in the Jewish Talmudic belief, the promised Messiah would enter Jerusalem at the end of time, resurrecting the dead in His wake.

The Jews wanted a good seat, and the Muslims wanted to block His entry.

It makes me laugh. Did the sultan think that through? If he were concerned enough to seal the gate, maybe he should have considered that a few feet of stone wouldn’t cause the divine and victorious Messiah to even break His stride.

Fifteen hundred years earlier, and less than a mile away, a similar decision was made. The Roman prefect overseeing Judea sealed the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid, pacifying the Jewish political leaders. Just as those efforts proved not to be an impediment to the risen Jesus, neither shall the work of 16th-century Muslim masons.

It’s easy to laugh at sealed gates and heavy stones, but maybe we should reflect on how often we create similarly meaningless barriers to God individually and corporately. Whether it’s the unconstitutional “separation” of state from church with bans on school prayer to simply an adamant (and arrogant) denial of God’s very existence, our flimsy barriers have no impact on His reality.

The God who spoke the universe into being goes where He wants. All we do is deny ourselves the joy of knowing Him.

In sealing up our hearts to God, we imprison ourselves. The Messiah who conquers death wants you to enjoy life and liberty with Him.