Sometimes the most isolated peak offers the greatest promise of presence.
“After he had dismissed [his disciples and the crowds], he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” – Matthew 14:23
Let’s just pause for a moment to consider the situation.
Jesus has just heard some rather devastating news: the disciples of John the Baptist have just informed Jesus of the death of John. The Baptist was extremely influential in the life of Jesus. Not only were they cousins, but Jesus had sought community with John. Jesus received the baptism of John in the Jordan.
Jesus needed to get away.
Jesus needed a little space, a little time to himself, a little time alone in the presence of God to grieve, to regroup.
But, his needs would have to wait. Though he may have been physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted, the needs of others would outweigh his own. Crowds continued to seek him out. Jesus returned to the crowds to heal their sick and, ultimately, he offered the crowds (and, especially, his disciples) a miraculous abundance of nourishment! (Matthew 14:13-21)
The need of Jesus and his feeding of the five thousand was the focus of a post I wrote last week: Broken Pieces: The Abundance Beyond Exhaustion.
For whatever reason, though, I have not been able to get off this mountain.
For one thing, I have been working on a series, Overhearing the Message, based on the sermon on the mount.
Not to mention, today is Transfiguration Sunday.
But also, there are extremely intimidating (figurative) mountains in all of our lives…which is why I wrote Paper Airplanes Soaring from the Mountain a couple days ago.
I’m beginning to think I have not been able to leave this mountain, because Jesus was not ready to leave the mountain. At least, not before he had a moment by himself to pray.
Jesus sent the disciples to the other side (of the sea of Galilee) and he dismissed the crowds, whom Jesus had shown compassion in the midst of his grief.
Jesus, then, went up the mountain. While I know this to be a literal mountain and while I know mountains often serve as a place of divine revelation, I cannot help but wonder if this mountain served figuratively (as mountains so often do for us). Is it possible this mountain represented the pain Jesus felt for the loss of a cousin, friend, and mentor? Is it possible this mountain represented Jesus’ emotional exhaustion from his selfless giving to others? Is it possible this mountain represented the loneliness Jesus felt in the midst of the needs of the crowds?
What I do know, however, is the mountain was a place for Jesus to be alone in prayer. The mountain before Jesus was the very place Jesus would discover the presence of God. While he climbed his mountain so that he might be alone, Jesus intended to be alone with God.
I am going to leave the mountain for now, but I could not leave without making this final observation: your mountain is a great place to find God. Whatever your mountain may be…God is there.
Be comforted in knowing there will be times when all of us must climb the mountain standing before us in search of isolation with God, who is capable and willing to refresh our exhausted spirit.
Blessings to you on this Sunday morning!