By Dr. Nate Lowe – Chairman of the Board of Directors of Run Hard. Rest Well. Thanks, Nate!
I have read the Sermon on the Mount dozens if not hundreds of time in my life. I have heard countless sermons expounding on this timeless sermon. But I have never considered the sermon in the two-verse introduction to this famous passage. It is especially striking in The Message.
Matthew 5: 1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. …
Jesus is “drawing huge crowds” to his ministry, which to me sounds great. But crowds by nature bring noise and dirt and needs that must be addressed. People do not have to believe in the cause to be part of the crowd. You can hide in a crowd. You can be anonymous. You can watch from a distance. You can be loosely connected to the organization. You can walk out anytime. You can enjoy the show without committing anything personal.
So Jesus “climbed a hillside.” The NIV says, “He went up on a mountainside.” The two versions together indicate this was more than a stroll into the country. “The committed climbed with him” indicates that some from the crowd were not committed and did not climb. Jesus left the huge ministry opportunity of the crowd and went someplace different; someplace secluded. This in itself is a curious ministry model in our bigger-is-better culture.
Humans by nature will drop out as the intensity increases. Millions of people will spend this weekend on the couch watching Netflix. Thousands will run/walk local 5K races. Only a handful will run ultra-marathons of 100 miles or more.
Finally, Jesus finds a quiet place and sits down to teach. Again, this seems counter-intuitive for the Son of God who is trying to spread the Good News on this planet. He knows he only has 3 years to convince/influence/serve as many as possible. Yet he chooses to withdraw, to climb, and to sit still while he teaches. He chooses the quiet of the small group over the chaos of the crowd. For this sermon, He chooses to teach like a Rabbi instead of preaching like a prophet.
Questions that come to my mind when I read this:
Would I have been part of the committed who was willing to climb a mountain to hear Jesus teach? Would I have come close and sat at His feet to hear His teaching?
Is Jesus inviting me now to climb a little farther up with Him? Is he inviting me to come away to a quiet place so He can teach me? What in my life today indicates that I am willing to go a little farther, deeper, or out of my comfort zone to be with Jesus?
Am I content to watch the show from a distance – ready to point the finger when someone in ministry fails or shows hypocrisy? Do I really want to be this close to The Teacher? Or would I rather sit in the back and see how this goes?
We are a group of passionate people who gather around the 4-word mission statement, “Run Hard. Rest Well.”
- It’s a journey into the heart of God. It comes our way through an on-going exploration of four biblical rhythms that revive, replenish and restore: Sabbath Keeping, Sleep (and other simple stress-reducers), Stillness—personal retreat, and Solitude—personal retreat.
- It’s an expedition that challenges us at every turn. It convicts us in deep, tender places. It alters our priorities and plans. It’s not for the faint of heart.
- It’s adventure at its best – as we learn to run our race in a power not our own.