“And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Matthew 27:39-40 New King James Version
Why is it, that when someone is in trouble, has some form of setback, or find themselves in a set of circumstances like Job’s we become like jackals surrounding a wounded Lion? And let’s be honest here, the more prominent the person it seems the greater the “wagging of heads”. The more advice given about what they need to do or what they should have done.
We show a certain amount of compassion, yet if it involves a circumstance we believe those in trouble should have prepared for or expected (as in expect the unexpected), the greater our disdain for them. And our sound advice often contains just enough shaming words to chastise the individual and allow us to feel superior in our set of more comfortable circumstances.
In Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7 we have what has been called The Sermon on the Mount. On that mountain, Jesus gave one of the most powerful messages ever recorded in the history of humanity. I believe it is likely the most quoted of the spoken words in the Bible.
We like talking about the words Jesus declared to the masses gathered to hear what this Carpenter from Nazareth had to say. But how often do we take in those words for ourselves? Do we, rather than hear the words of Jesus and internalize them, use them to feel more righteous than those we have just comforted with our words of wisdom?
“So when I step out onto the front porch this morning, there’s a Bible right there at my feet, ripped up into a million mocking shreds.
The Sermon on the Mount is torn and chewed and spit out by the BBQ, like the whole thing could be tinder for some kind of burnt sacrifice gone terribly wrong.
Fragments of the slashed-up gospels look like papery ash fallen on all the hostas.”
There is another mountain that figures heavily in Christian theology that we must consider here as well. It is on this second mountain Jesus puts all He declared on that first mountain into a real world set of circumstances. For the truth is that Jesus could easily have come down from that Mountain, the cross. If we believe Jesus was the Son of God, then we must understand He could have chosen never to be on that Mountain. Yet there He was in more pain than you or I will ever experience. And as He hung there for humanity, humanity dared to challenge the only One able to right the disastrous choices we made.
The Christian community appears to expect the world to respond to the Sermon on the Mount when we ourselves mostly choose to ignore its content. We shred it up to fit our desires for its message instead of seeking to allow its words to transform us so that the world will see the Sermon in its transformational process.
You might even say it is a process of grace. God taking the disciples of Jesus through Spiritual Bootcamp, preparing us to carry out the last commandment of Jesus, the commandment that summarizes every word Jesus provided for our benefit. That we (those who have chosen to receive and believe in Him) love each other in such a way the world will have no doubt who we are and, most of all, who He is! And those words given on a mountain have been shredded and stripped of their power by “wagging heads” demanding that Jesus come down from that mountain!
That’s the danger in trying to place our spin on the words of Jesus rather than allowing those words to transform us into jars of clay filled with the love that Jesus calls us to have for each other. And you and I can have no doubt as to just how powerful that love really is. Because Jesus tells us it has the potential to transform the followers of Jesus so dramatically that all humanity would have no problem knowing who sent Him and who He was!
It was His love He described in the mountaintop sermon. It was that same love that kept Him on that mountain top where His words were put into a real life situation. Jesus lived His own love for all humanity by not coming down from the mountaintop cross. And He proved His love by coming down from the mountain of the sermon to live it out before the extreme version of “Loving as He had loved” was finally proven.
We need to stop shredding the Word of God as we take it to those who need to know His love, our fellow disciples. Jesus tells us that if we loved as He loved, the gospel would then have the power to transform us and the world.
I know I have no ability to live that love in my life. I find it difficult at times to love as Jesus loved with those I love the most. Too often I still find myself struggling to live that unconditional love Jesus commanded His followers to live. And those are the moments in my life when I need that love of Jesus the most.
The Good News, the gospel, reveals Jesus is willing to live that love out through us as our reality! How does He do this? I’m glad you asked! Living His love in us is a moment by moment faith experience that is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us our faith was smaller than a mustard seed, therefore it is also His faith that becomes our transforming investment in His Grace!
Remember the Good News is a transforming message, made a reality in our lives through the Holy Spirit. God’s desire is to daily lead each one into the conviction of those things which do not reveal the love of Jesus in our lives. The Holy Spirit brings us to the most difficult, yet most revealing aspect of the gospel, conviction and confession of those things we have in our lives which hinder that amazing love of Jesus as reality in us.
I say the most difficult because we don’t like admitting there is anything in us which is in rebellion against God! Funny, but the disciples of Jesus need to be the first to acknowledge how desperately we are in need of conviction, confession, and then repentance. Yes, it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are turned around to be enveloped in that love we so urgently need.
Two mountains reveal the power of God’s Love and Grace, two mountains with the power to transform our hearts and minds. What will you and I receive from those two mountains?