I love to read and the stacks of books on our shelves, beside my favorite chair, and on my nightstand attest to that. I often have friends ask me about what I have read lately as well because they seem to think I likely have found some goodie they might enjoy.
I have many favorite books and I do have a Kindle and iBooks, but I confess to preferring the feel of a book in my hand (especially if the paper used to print it is nice). Even so, no book has the capacity to bring new discoveries each time I read it like the Bible does.
I am not sure how many times I have read through all of it, but even in my favorite or most familiar passages I often spy a new gem of discovery or recognition when I visit it again.
Today I was reading in Matthew 5. I have read it dozens upon dozens of times and still recall memorizing the beatitudes in Vacation Bible School as a child. In this chapter we find likely the most well known sermon ever preached anywhere. It is most commonly called “The Sermon on the Mount”.
I had never considered what “mount” this was and the Bible doesn’t say in this case.
In my research, I found that it is thought to be Mt. Eremos that is located on Galilee’s northwest shore between the cities of Gennesaret and Capernaum. Some also refer to this mount as the Horns of Hattin, a ridge running east and west not far from Capernaum. The exact spot is not clear, but for more than 1,500 years this area has been historically pointed to. If you were going to see this area today, it would be about three hours from Jerusalem by bus and once you arrived you would discover The Church of the Beatitudes there and have a wonderful view of the Sea of Galilee.
The descriptions suggest a broad plateau area that would have been well suited for those 5,000+ who came to hear Jesus to spread out over the hills.
Prior to this pivotal message, Jesus had spent the night praying at its highest point and then chose from those who had been following Him, his twelve disciples. History says He moved a bit lower to a broad open area where the multitudes had gathered. From there, He began to teach.
Ken Gire points out in Moments with the Savior who this large group would have been comprised of.
“The crowds were comprised largely of the outsiders. From Galilee came a lot of racially mixed, unorthodox Jews. From the Decapolis and settlements east of the Jordan River came a lot of Gentiles. Many in the crowds were those whom Jesus had healed. The diseased and infirm. The demonized and insane. The disabled and impoverished.”
These would not have been the pillars of their community or the honored in the temple. These were ones who had heard about a miracle-working man known as Jesus and they had come with hope and faith, however feeble.
They would not have come with provisions because they would not have had them. These were the discounted, the poor, and those unwanted by many.
But what is most significant perhaps was that these were the committed climbers who walked or limped to the bottom of the mount and then climbed to where they saw Jesus. There they sat, eager to hear, eyes fixed on Him. Nothing else mattered.
Here they heard the essentials of Christianity, a character sketch of those who had entered the Kingdom or would do so.
They must have sat for hours in the sun without thought to anything save the words from Jesus, their food and drink, their hope and sustenance.
These were the committed climbers.
That gave me pause.
Am I a committed climber?