Do You Have the Strength to Follow Jesus?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, the disciples came to Him.

Matthew 5:1

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount begins with three minor notes that are nevertheless worth our attention. First, “Jesus saw the crowds.” Later we will be told that Jesus “looked on the crowds with compassion.” Jesus saw people in the way an MRI, an X-ray, or a CT scan can see. They see everything—even concealed things. John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist whose particular expertise is the development of the human brain. He has concluded that empathy is the highest form of intelligence. That’s the way Jesus sees us, with empathy. He sees even the parts we try hardest to conceal—with brilliant compassion.

Secondly, “Jesus went up on the mountain.” Jesus’ ministry is marked by mountains: the mountains of temptation, the Beatitudes, the Transfiguration, the Mount of Olives, the Crucifixion, and the Ascension. Whenever Jesus goes up on a mountain, something important is about to happen. Matthew would have remembered the dramatic encounters Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, and Elijah had on mountains. In the Bible, mountaintop experiences are not about the elevation or the view; they are about experiencing the stunning presence God.

Thirdly, “Jesus sat down.” In our day, when someone intends to speak with authority, they stand up. But in Jesus’ day, a person speaking with authority sat down. Jesus spoke with authority about what is real, and as D. S. Cairns puts it, either Jesus is a dreamer about reality or we are. Cairns summarizes Jesus’ view of reality by saying, “God is always nearer, mightier, more loving, and more free to help every one of us than anyone ever realizes … Jesus teaches with authority to awaken us from the hypnotic spell that is constantly contracting and chilling our thoughts of God, leading to all kinds of depressing and terrifying illusions about Him.”

In his book, Wisdom Chaser, Nathan Foster describes how he and his famous father, Richard Foster, discovered each other by climbing the highest mountains in Colorado—“the fourteeners.” Neither had experience in climbing, but they learned together—about climbing and about each other.

So let’s climb a mountain together. Discipleship is an uphill journey, and Jesus throws his Sermon on the Mount down to us like a rope with knots that help us climb higher in the embrace of his compassion and the singular glory of his life-transforming reality. Take hold of the rope and climb.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: If Jesus is the world’s leading authority on what’s real, how should you be responding? Are you? Where does your life feel like an uphill journey these days?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I know it's foolhardy to live with a faulty view of reality, and yet so often, that’s what I do. Sometimes it’s because I don’t know what’s real, and other times it’s because I do know, and I choose to be willfully disobedient. Awaken me from the spell of this earth-dream and strengthen me to walk with you along the upward path of faithfulness. Amen.

God at Work

Where is God? Does he inhabit only the sanctuaries and monasteries and seminaries of the earth? Or, is God with you in your cubicle, your classroom, your kitchen, your conference call? What about the carpool lane? And if God is there with you, what does that mean? Join us for the series, God at Work, where we explore what it means that God is not only at work in you, but also, quite literally, with you. It may be difficult to see the Kingdom of God through the deadlines and reports and meetings and evaluations and budgets, but be encouraged: he is there. Together, let’s find him in the ordinary places you work, and let’s consider how his presence makes a difference for good.

Featured image by Cindee Snider Re. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.