“And seeing the multitudes, he went up on a mountain…” (Mat 5,1)
I’ve read over that passage perhaps hundreds of times and never realized the significance of it. Matthew is trying to grab our attention with this “up on a mountain” phrase. He knew this is where our story meets that of the divine.
Up on a Mountain
When Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, an angel of the Lord entered human history and changed its course. Where did this happen? Up on a mountain.
When Moses was sitting around with a bunch of sheep, probably feeling his life was pointless, a nearby bush blew up in flames and a voice spoke out ordering him to take his sandals off. Why? Because the divine had come and crashed into human history, forever changing its course. And where did this happen? Up on a mountain.
Again, Moses has an encounter with the divine. He comes back with more than just two stone tablets with ten commands written on them. His encounter was so awesome that his face glowed radiantly with the glory and majesty of God. And where did this occur? Up on a mountain.
When Elijah challenged the false religious teachers of his day to a contest of gods to display who was truly the Almighty One, and when God rained fire down from heaven to consume the water-drenched offering and display that He is the One True God of Israel, where did they meet? Up on a mountain.
When Elijah lost heart and ran for his life and awaited the voice of God, which came not in fire or earthquake, but in the still small whisper on the softly blowing breeze, where did he have this encounter? Up on a mountain.
Its Application Today
When Matthew saw Jesus ascend a mountain, he knew that forever the world had been changed. The divine came crashing into human history, wrapped in flesh and blood, sitting on a mountain teaching humanity the ways of God. He came saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” No longer was the way of God a mystery, no longer was truth something to know: it was now someone to know.
In chapter 8 of Matthew, the divine did something it had never done before: it stepped down from the mountain and into the valleys. It walked among the people healing, feeding, and teaching.
And the divine is still with us, for he lives and is King of both the mountain and the valleys. So whether you feel you are on a mountain or a valley, know that God wrapped in flesh is with you. God has stepped down from the mountain, entered human history, and has forever changed its course. God is here right now, and has promised to be with you always.