During my lifetime I have had several mountain-top experiences, literally. I’ve been at the top of the Schilthoran Summit in the Bernese Alps. I’ve been at the top of Whistler Mountain in British Columbia. I’ve been to the top of Koolau Range on Oahu, and near the top of Mount Elbert in Colorado. And each time my thoughts would turn to the God of the Scriptures and often Psalm 121:1 & 2. Throughout the Bible mountains have profound meaning in the lives of believers and sending them back into the world with a mission.
In Genesis, Noah’s ark settles on a mountain-top where God makes a new covenant with Noah and all of creation. Generations later on Mt. Moriah, God proves His unspeakable provision to Abraham. On Mt. Horeb, God calls Moses to deliver His people from the bondage of Egypt. When Israel crosses the Jordan, entering between two mountains, they receive the blessing of God.
Mountains are prime locations for God’s call and commissioning of His people. Perhaps this is why Matthew is so fond of mountains. Of all the gospel writers, it’s Matthew who begins and ends Jesus’ three years of earthly ministry on a mountain. Some commentators, in fact, think that it’s the same mountain, near Capernaum on the northwest shores of the Sea of Galilee. In between these two mountain-top experiences, Matthew tells us of five other mountains associated with Jesus’ ministry.
One fascinating study is to compare Moses’ Sinai experience with the experience of those who gathered to hear Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Instead of clouds, fencing, and veils, Matthew says “seeing the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountain…sat down…and he opened His mouth…” What a difference! What’s even more striking is to compare Matthew 28:16-20 to Moses’ Sinai experience. It’s the difference between night and day.
This week we begin our new series, “A Charge to Keep.” It flows from what Jesus tells His brothers on this mountain in Galilee weeks after His resurrection. It’s called “the Great Commission.” The words are familiar,
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
It’s the phrase, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” that will capture our attention throughout the series. What has He commanded us? We’ll dig into all of that in the coming weeks. This week we introduce the topic by looking at the location, the lessons, and the license Jesus reveals to us in this farewell address.
In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:
1) In Exodus 34 the Bible says that Moses had to wear a veil on his face after leaving Sinai. Why? (See II Corinthians 3:12)
2) What does the word “commission” mean?
3) Why does Jesus pick a mountain in Galilee as the place to issue His commission?
4) Compare Matthew 4:8-9 to Matthew 28:16-20.
5) What does, “but some doubted” mean?
6) Why the differences between Matthew’s account of the Great Commission and Mark’s?
7) What does “worship“ mean in verse 17?
8) Find the four “alls” in verses 18-20. What is the significance?
9) What does the word “observe” mean in verse 20?
10) What statement of Jesus sustained David Livingstone throughout his years in Africa?
See you Sunday!