Mountain Top Experiences

|

All ancient religions, including Judaism, believed in the significance of mountains for encountering the divine. So many spiritual high points in Jesus’ life actually happened on physically high ground!

Updates

Israel is a hilly country, with mountains and valleys. Not surprisingly, they are an important feature in the Gospels. Jesus had many mountain top experiences during his earthly life.

Jesus formed the habit of finding solitary places so that he could speak to his Father. Whilst in Galilee, in the north of Israel, crowds flocked to hear him and to see the miracles he performed. In fact, Jesus was modelling what he taught his disciples about the need to find time alone to pray. (Matthew 6:5 - 15) Series 4 Episode 12.

One of those places was going into the hills or mountains away from everyone - including his disciples! (Matthew 13: 23) Series 6 Episode 6. On one such occasion, he left his disciples lower down on a hillside and went up higher to pray.  After he had prayed, he met up with them again and chose twelve from amongst them to be his apostles, who would be ‘ambassadors’ of the message of the Kingdom (Luke 6:12 - 16) Series 3 Episode 15. This was a very important decision which he had no doubt just discussed with the Father.

Whilst Jesus was on the mountain, he sat down and taught his disciples about the way they were to live, which is referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:1) Series 4 Episode 2. In fact, the whole of Series 4 is dedicated to this teaching. He was able to find a natural raised area in which to address the apostles and other disciples, to give this important teaching.

At another point in his ministry, Jesus tried to take his chosen Twelve away from the crowds. He took a boat from the western coast across the Sea of Galilee to Bethsaida on the north-eastern side. From the accounts in John 6: 3 and Luke 9: 10, it looks like the crowd gathered on a hillside, or a mountainside near Bethsaida. The crowd greeted Jesus with great excitement when he arrived. This was the occasion of the feeding of 5000 - the greatest crowd recorded in the Gospels and a miraculous highpoint in Jesus’ ministry (Mark 6: 30 - 44) Series 6 Episode 5.

The transfiguration (Matthew 17: 1 -13) Series 7 Episode 3, occurred on a high mountain. Jesus had moved out of Galilee because of the opposition he was facing from the Jewish authorities and also potentially from King Herod Antipas. He was in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi. Nearby are quite a few hills and mountains. This is the area which we would describe, in modern geography, as southern Lebanon, Northern Israel, the Golan Heights and the southern westernmost parts of Syria. This very high mountain is almost certainly a mountain that is quite near Caesarea Philippi, just a little bit further north, maybe 10 or 15 kilometres away called Mount Hermon, which is 2800 metres high. In the context of the nation of Israel, this is a very high mountain indeed, much higher than any of the hills in Galilee. Mount Hermon is the highest mountain in that area and it would have been a substantial walk for Jesus to go with his inner circle of disciples. It's a suitable location for this remarkable experience. Moses and Elijah appeared, Jesus was transfigured and God the Father spoke. This was a decisive moment in Jesus’ earthly life as he would not minister again in Galilee and was now heading to Jerusalem and all that was to happen there.

However, as Jesus and the three disciples came down from the mountain they encountered the remaining apostles struggling with a healing request and facing confrontation from the Jewish authorities (Mark 9:14 - 29) Series 7 Episode 4. After the mountain top experience, they were immediately thrust into the realities of confrontation and the need for healing.

It was on a mountain that Jesus gave his followers the Great Commission - ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ (Matthew 28:19) Series 14 Episode 7.

The final event in Jesus’ earthly life happened on a mountain - his ascension (Luke 24:50 - 53) Series 14 Episode 8, when Jesus left his disciples to return to his Father in heaven. Luke describes this event as being in the vicinity of Bethany - probably on the Mount of Olives.

All ancient religions, including Judaism, believed in the significance of mountains for encountering the divine. So many spiritual high points in Jesus’ life actually happened on physically high ground!

Published by Word Online
Word Online Logo
Modified