It’s impossible to halfheartedly follow Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount reveals this truth to us. In Scripture, mountains are sacred spaces where revelation and transformation take place. In Old Testament times, it was believed that mountains were closer to God, who “dwells on high” (Isaiah 33:5), but now He dwells in our hearts. In the New Testament, Jesus appointed the twelve disciples on top of a mountain and set the stage for the transfiguration before Peter, James, and John. Jesus even prayed on the Mount of Olives before surrendering His life for us. Mountains serve as significant spaces—places where we meet with Jesus. Places away from crowds.
Sometimes, as we walk with Jesus, he takes us into a mountain experience—not a mystical mountain top experience—but a time of seclusion and attention where heart change takes place. Our relationship with Jesus searches our belief systems and heart motives in order to bring about inward and outward transformation. Mountain experiences with Jesus draw us away from the crowd.
When we approach the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus did what seemed countercultural to making an impact: He stepped away and started to climb the mountainside. Was it to see who would follow? “When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him” (Matthew 5:1-2).
Choosing to be a crowd pleaser or a mountain climber is a decision we daily make. Maybe we don’t climb mountains with Jesus because we don’t want to be out there on our own, misjudged or misunderstood by others, or seen as too radical. Remaining nominal in our Christianity seems easier. To be nominal means to be insignificant, and its synonyms are token, minimal, and small.
There are times when I haven’t spoken up or stepped out because I was avoiding difficult, messy conversations. But Jesus didn’t do that; motivated by love, He engaged others. At times, we all want to hide or isolate, and avoid society, but we must remember that it is in the climbing and learning we’re transformed. Our obedience to follow matters.
What is the hardest challenge you face when the crowd’s noise and attention is stronger and more alluring than Jesus’s call to “take up your cross and follow me”? What is keeping you from ascending the path Jesus may be calling you to?
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