Hi. I’m Ken Jones, and this is A Classic State of Mind, with a word about … The Climb.
I love to read Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the New Testament, The Message. And I especially enjoy his treatment of The Sermon on the Mount. There’s just something about the down-to-earth way he paraphrases that setting, with Jesus gathering the multitude so he could teach them. Listen to how Peterson paraphrases those first few lines of Matthew chapter 5, what we call The Sermon on the Mount: He writes,
“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 …” (Matt. 5:1 The Message)
If you were to examine Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the 20th century, you might be surprised at who made their list. In the first place, the ‘people’ who made the list aren’t all people. Bart Simpson made their list, even though he’s a cartoon character. Oprah made the list. So did Gandhi and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some people I would never have thought of were there, as well. (Mafia chieftain, Lucky Luciano, made the list.) Sir Edmund Hillary was on the list, too.
Most people know that Hillary was the first person to have successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest in May of 1953. But he was not alone. A Sherpa mountaineer accompanied Sir Hillary every agonizing step of his climb. Tenzing Norgay was the guy who, you might say, did the ‘heavy lifting’ of Sir Hillary’s climb to fame. But Tenzing Norgay didn’t make Time’s list of influencers.
Committed to the climb. Dedicated to the one he served. And faithful to the task to which he had been called. A guy many people have never heard of carried massive packs of gear and supplies into the thin Mt.Everest atmosphere. Through treacherous mountain passes, in difficult weather. Navigating old and worn paths, as well as strange and unknown territories. Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa guide, relentlessly trudged up the face of the world’s tallest mountain until, alongside his climbing companion, he reached the top.
I’m coming to appreciate that things like trust and faith grow best along the slopes of the uphill, difficult and daily trek of life.
I am eternally grateful that Jesus — God in Flesh— has been this way before us. Like some friendly guide. Like some Divine Sherpa who carries our load. Read again the gospel stories, and you will be reminded: This God in flesh still beckons we who are the committed ones to follow Him. He who climbed down from heaven’s splendor to take His place among men leads the way and the climb. He knows what it means to journey into life’s wilderness hills to be tempted. He’s already climbed that Mount of Beattitudes to teach those of us who dare to follow. He knows what it is to face a mountain of opposition and isolation. And he never stops calling, reaching, loving his climbing companions.
If you need a model of true commitment? If you are serving in some difficult place with little or no recognition of your contribution and effort? If you’ve ever felt like you were standing alone on some cold and windy mountain? If you’ve ever been so confused because of the blinding weather of life and living that you long for a guide to point the way? If you’ve ever been so exhausted with the weight of what you carry that you are desperate for someone who could help you with the ‘heavy lifting?’ Then, perhaps you would do well to re-visit Eugene Peterson’s “The Message,” and those first few verses of Matthew, chapter five again:
“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 …”