Mountains feature frequently and prominently throughout the Bible and there is much to be learned from understanding the specific significance of each individual mountain mentioned by Scripture. Whether it be associated with the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament, such as Noah and Mount Ararat, Abraham and Mount Moriah, Moses and Mount Sinai, Caleb and Mount Hebron, David and Mount Zion and Elijah and Mount Carmel, or whether they be associated with the mountaintop ministry of Christ our Lord.
In fact, mountains and hills are mentioned more than 500 times throughout the Bible and in a number of different ways. Of course, we should understand that as with many other physical places and geographical features mentioned in Scripture, mountains can have both a spiritual and a literal meaning, and it is important therefore, to discern rightly between the two. In other words, we do not want to over spiritualise every mention of a mountain when it is mentioned merely in a literal sense. However, neither do we want to miss the sometimes deep spiritual significance attached to certain incidents that take place on particular mountains, or the meaning attached to those mountains themselves.
It is true that when our Lord spoke of faith sufficient to remove the mountain, we understand that He is employing the mountain to represent something large, a significant obstacle of some permanency. But actually, in context, His point is less related to the size of the mountain than it is to the incredible effect of faith. We also understand that ascending the mountain will often imply an increased spiritual state and a nearness to God. One should be aware that often in Scripture, the direction of travel speaks loudly about one’s relationship with God. Travelling downward often speaks of a moving away from the presence of God, whilst an upward direction the opposite. And, we also understand that prophetically, mountains can represent nations or kingdoms and the authority attached to them.
However, for the purposes of this series, we must understand that in Scripture the mountaintop is a place of revelation and whether through the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament, or the ministry of our Lord in the New, the Bible shows us that some of the most significant moments of all history have been revealed on the mountain. Moreover, perhaps the most significant revelation of all still to come, will also take place on a mountain. Therefore, just as the land of Israel is mountainous, so too we discover that her mountain ranges run all the way though our Bible from beginning to end.
We begin our series in the first book of the New Testament. In the gospel according to Matthew, we find recorded seven scenes of Christ on a mountain at critical points in His earthly ministry, with important teaching associated with each one. Of these seven, for this message, I have chosen two. The Mount of Transfiguration and Mount Calvary. The transfiguration of our Lord Jesus is surely one of the most important of His earthly experiences. It is recorded in all the synoptic gospels and probably referred to in John 1:14. Peter expounds its meaning in his second epistle and Matthew places it here in his gospel, right between the first two mentions of the cross.
It occurs therefore, right at the time when our Lord had begun to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed and be raised again the third day. And it was from this time that Jesus began in earnest, His journey to the cross. According to our Bible, this is the only time during His time on earth, that Jesus is revealed in His glory. What happened on the Mount of Transfiguration, was a metamorphosis. When the word of God says that Jesus was transfigured or transformed before His disciples, those words translate from the same word which gives us the English word, metamorphosis. This is a word we often use about a caterpillar, which having built a cocoon or a chrysalis, emerges as either a moth or a butterfly… and the important thing is that it is a change which comes from the inside out. Important because, the glory of our Lord was not reflected glory, but glory which radiated from within. In other words, the change witnessed on the outside, emanated from the inside. And it was the glory of God.
The face of Jesus shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light and Moses and Elijah (representing the Law and the Prophets) appeared to the disciples of Christ as He talked with them. This is very much a preview of Christ in His glory. But it is also very much a prelude to a lesson that all His followers must learn; glory and suffering go together. There could be no kingdom without the cross and before the crown could be worn, the cross had to be borne. Fast forward to the events leading up to the crucifixion of Mount Calvary. The face which on that mount shone as sun, was the same face which would be spat upon. The garments that shone as the light, would be gambled for. Instead of a voice from heaven, there would be an awful silence. The place of Moses and Elijah on either side, would be taken by two thieves. But the glory and majesty of His reign as King of Kings was nevertheless assured. On the Mount of Transfiguration, His three disciples had seen it with their own eyes, and they have testified of it to us.
At the Mount of Transfiguration, a preview was given of Christ in His glory, but the transfiguration also shows us the relationship between the Cross and the Coming. From the events of Mount Calvary, we the redeemed, now bear witness to the vicarious, atoning, sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus, His burial and the miracle of His bodily resurrection. This dear friends, is the very foundation of Christianity and the subject of the gospel and we are commissioned to go and tell the world.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation.
So, go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere.