Higher Ground

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up on a mountain, and when he was seated his
disciples came to him. Then he opened his mouth and taught them …” (Matthew 5:1,2).
We have a fascination with height. Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on earth, at over 29,000 feet in elevation. Millions travel just to look at it, and its allure as a trekking and climbing destination is legendary. Other peaks of far less altitude are also famous and prized as destinations. Most nations, states, and districts note their “highest points” and these are often featured as tourist destinations.
This fascination is not limited to geography. The tallest building, tallest man, and tallest animal are also items of note. Stories of giants, whether true (Goliath) or myth (the giant of Jack’s beanstalk) continue to provoke interest. We like the unusual, of course, but size, and especially height, seems to have a particular appeal.
It is easy to see that the Bible features mountains prominently. Examples include Ararat, where the Ark eventually landed (Genesis 8:4); Sinai where the Law was given to Moses (Exodus 19:20); Nebo, upon which Moses died (Deuteronomy 32:49); and the Mount of Transfiguration where Jesus’ authority was confirmed to the Apostles (Mark 9:2ff). Good things often happened upon mountains. God is often associated in special ways with the hills. The Psalmist proclaimed,
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills ?- From whence comes my help? My help comes from
the Lord who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1,2).
Given this background, it is not surprising to read that Jesus went upon a mountain and there taught his disciples. We might well expect that. The geography of Palestine and the natural acoustical quality of such a setting also encourage its selection. But may we also infer a more spiritual application? Jesus taught from “higher ground” not only in the physical site of his sermon, but also in his moral, ethical, and theological perspectives. He was vastly superior to his contemporaries among the Jewish religious leaders in all these respects. His sincerity and truthfulness surpassed their hypocrisy. His love for the lost overshadowed their selfishness. His reverence for God made a mockery of their pride.
Genuine Christianity, when compared with any other religion or philosophy, is higher ground. It provides the greatest view of humanity, the only true revelation of God, and the single real hope that man can possess. As much as we love the scenery of Mount Everest, the engineering marvel of a huge sky-scraper, or the grace and power of a “7-footer” on the basketball court, the awesome heights of the Way of Christ are much greater. Jesus promised, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). His truth is incredibly beautiful. May we proclaim it and follow it always.

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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One thought on “Higher Ground

  1. To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus had been to the mountaintop and had seen the promised land. And He knew that we needed to be headed there. His life and death were directed toward that noblest of goals. Thanks for the article.
    Richard Mansel

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