Back in the summer of 2010, after finishing up the summer intensive program of Biblical Greek in a town just outside of Athens, Greece, a friend and I packed up our backpacks and hit the trail. We took a ferry across the Aegean sea to Turkey, and from there we toured through Egypt and Jordan, then finally ending up in Israel. We were broke college students and had a romanticized idea that the more we could be on foot on our trip the better. We set out to walk around the Sea of Galilee (55 KM in circumference!), only to find on day two of our trek that walking and camping around this arid region during the hottest summer the Middle East had seen in recorded history was quickly losing its luster. We hitchhiked the rest of the way around the lake, stopping by Capernaum—or what’s left of it. Seeing all these sights made the stories in Matthew come so much more alive!
The next day after camping beside the Jordan where it flows into the sea of Galilee, we packed up our backpacks and set off for the hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee where the Sermon on the Mount is believed to have been delivered. We hiked up, aiming to beat the loads of tour buses, though by the time we reached the top, hot, sweaty, thirsty, and tired, we were wishing we had forked over the money for the ride. Once we reached the top, we we sat down feeling poor in spirit; we finished our water and pulled our Bibles out of our packs and read these words:
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. Matthew 5:1-2
There on that hillside, we found ourselves IN this story. It was alive! We were there amongst the crowds, eager to see Jesus, eager to hear him teach. Why? Because he had been moving through our towns, the ones down below us surrounding the sea,
teaching in [our] synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people . . . [we] brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering sever pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Matthew 4:23-24
We read through the Sermon on the Mount, taking a note from Ellen White and placing ourselves in the story, imagining ourselves there, looking around at the characters, the weary, the broken, the diseased, the disciples gathered closest, the cynical, the conniving, those burned out on religion, all of them gathered near this man because something was happening through him, something new, something that they wanted to see for themselves.
My prayer is that over these next 40 days, through thoughtful contemplation, reflection on the life and teachings of Jesus, through prayer, Jesus begins to do something new in us. My prayer is that our hearts would begin to open to The Way of the man from Galilee, and that we will find ourselves—you will find yourself—opened up to the gifts he longs to give, that you would find yourself opened up with more Faith, Hope, and most importantly, more Love!