Jesus on the Mountain
by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
ABOUT TWELVE miles southwest from Capernaum and six miles west of the Sea of Galilee stands a mountain which can be seen many miles away. It is now called "Kurn Hattin," which means, "The double horns of Hattin." The name is given because the mountain has two tops, one at each end, and a wide hollow between them, its form making it look somewhat like a saddle or a camel with two humps. Near this mountain, roads ran to almost every part of the land of Israel, so that from every place it could be reached.
The word went throughout the land that Jesus was coming to this mountain; and a great multitude of people gathered in the hollow place between its two crowns, all waiting to see Jesus.
He came to the mountain and went up alone to one of its hill-tops. All night Jesus was there in prayer with his heavenly Father; for he had an important work to do, and before any great work Jesus prayed to God. In the morning he called forth out of the vast company of people before him twelve men, who were to be with him all the time, go with him wherever he should go, listen to his teachings, and learn them by heart, and be ready to preach his words when he should send them out. These twelve men Jesus afterward called "apostles," which means "men sent out"; but they were generally named "the twelve." They are also spoken of as "the disciples," although the word "disciples" is also used of all the followers of Jesus.
Most of the twelve men had been called before, and had been for some time with Jesus. Others were new men whom Jesus called now for the first time. Their names are arranged in pairs, two of them together. They were Simon Peter and Andrew his brother; James and John, the sons of Zebedee; Philip and his friend Bartholomew, also called Nathanael; Thomas and Matthew, who had been the tax-gatherer; James the son of Alphaeus; another Simon, who was called "the Zealot," and Judas Iscariot, the one who afterward became the traitor and sold his Lord to his enemies.
About most of these men we know very little, but some of them in later years did a great work for the church of Christ. Simon Peter was always a leader among the Twelve, being a man of quick mind and ready words; and John long after that time wrote "The Gospel according to John," one of the most wonderful books in the world.
In the sight of all the people Jesus called these men to stand by his side. Then he came down from the mountain-top to the hollow place between the two summits. He sat down, with his twelve chosen men around him, and beyond this a great crowd of people.
To the Twelve and to the listening multitude Jesus preached that great sermon which is called "The Sermon on the Mount." Matthew wrote it down, and you can read it in his gospel, the first book of the New Testament, in the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters. How fortunate it was that Jesus called the tax-gatherer to be one of his disciples, a man who could remember and write this great sermon for all the world to read! We give here only a few parts from this Sermon on the Mount. Jesus began with words of comfort to his followers:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Then he spoke to his disciples of what they were to be among men:
"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men."
He went on, perhaps pointing to a town not far away, built on the top of a hill and seen everywhere around:
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under a bushel, but on the stand; and it giveth light to all the house. Even so let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
He told his disciples how they should feel and act toward those who had done wrong to them:
"Ye have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who do you wrong, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends rain alike on the just and on the unjust. For if you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Why, the tax-gatherers whom you despise do as much. And if you speak only to your friends, wherein are you better than others? For even the Gentiles do the same. You should be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
He spoke also of the aims which men should seek in their lives:
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon, who is the god worshipped by this world. Therefore I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink; nor for your body, what you shall put on. Surely, life means more than food, surely the body means more than clothes! Look at the birds flying above you; they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than the birds?
"And why should you be anxious about your clothing? Look how the lilies of the field grow: they neither toil nor spin, and yet Solomon in all his glory was never robed like one of these! Now, if God so clothes the grass of the fields, which blooms today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you who trust God so little?"
"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we have to eat?' or 'what shall we have to drink?' or 'how can we get clothes to wear?' Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. Seek the kingdom of God, and do right according to his will: then all these things will be yours. Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day's own trouble is enough to be anxious over."
Here is what Jesus said as the ending of his sermon:
"Everyone who hears these words of mine, and acts upon them, is like a wise man, who built his house upon rock. The rain fell, the floods rose, the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, for it was founded upon rock.
"And every one that hears these words of mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods rose, the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was its fall."
When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were filled with wonder at his way of teaching. He spoke with the authority of a Master, unlike their own scribes. Most of the scribes when they were teaching would speak in the name of earlier teachers, and say, "Rabbi Jonathan said this," or "Rabbi Hillel said that." But Jesus spoke in his own name, saying, "I say this to you."