Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Matt. 5 and what we call The Sermon on the Mount begins this way:

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.”

The idea of Jesus having climbing companions as he made his way up that mountain of Beatitudes fascinates me. How many different climbs did he make in his short lifetime?

Of course, we know when God became flesh, he climbed into a manger. A one-of-a-kind change that meant He would leave the halls of heaven, to face the frailties of being a human being. At the age of 12, we know he climbed a summit toward manhood, as he sat in the temple in Jerusalem and exchanged thoughts with rabbis there. And what about that mountain of temptation he had to climb? Led into the wilderness, confronted by Satan himself, and tempted on that mountain.

Mountain climbing is risky business, even for the Son of God. How many times did he risk his well-being, by healing, touching, teaching. He said things in the open that could have meant his certain death, had God not had other ideas for how and when He would die. But every day of his three-plus years of ministry meant he faced a mountain of risk.

One of the most isolated mountains he had to climb could be called a mountain of solitude and aloneness. In order to accomplish the tremendous challenge of doing the will of His Father, it was important that he spend adequate time all alone in prayer. But anyone who’s ever spent any time at all in prayer knows, travailing before God can seem like an uphill climb, because the enemy of our souls seems to enjoy whispering in our ears, “God’s not listening; God’s not going to answer.”

I’m so grateful for the assurance of God’s Word that helps me know that the mountains of life that I have to navigate are familiar ones to the Jesus I serve. No matter the mountain, he has been there before me, and I am eternally grateful to be named as one of his ‘climbing companions.’

However, as skilled as he was at climbing mountains while here on earth, there was one formidable climb he refused to make. No peak on earth can compare to the mountain called Calvary. His cross became the sad proof, planted in that hill of shame, that he had successfully weathered all the other mountains. Only the mountain of death was left to be scaled.

How easy it would have been for anyone other than the Son of God to surrender to the challenge of the climb.  “If you’re really the son of God,” they taunted, ‘climb down from that cross.’ Thank God — Jesus, the Great and Might Climber of Every Mountain I will ever face — that Jesus refused to climb down.

And the result is what we call Amazing Grace.

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