He Came Down From The Mountain, But Not The Cross

by Tom Wacaster


If the Sermon on the Mount were all that Matthew recorded, that small piece of inspiration would declare the very majesty of the One Who spoke those words. The very first words we encounter as we enter the eighth chapter of Matthew capture our attention: "And when he was come down from the mountain" (8:1). Strictly speaking those half dozen English words describe His descent from an earthly mountain to the plains below. But suppose Jesus had stayed in the mountain? What if He had built some monastery and lived out His life in isolation? Had He done so, the miracles in this chapter, yea the whole of Matthew, would never have been recorded, and the teachings and instructions delivered on the mount would have been nothing more than the wisdom of just another Rabbi speaking to His band of devoted zealots who, at the end of their lifelong journey, would have summed up the experience in the words of the two men traveling to Emmaus: "But we hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel" (Luke 24:21). Thank God that Jesus did come down from that mountain! Consider the following.

He Came Down From The Mountain Of Happiness To Bear Our Sorrows

Each of the three miracles of healing in this portion of our study is vitally connected with that beautiful chapter of the Suffering Servant in Isiah 53. Matthew told us these things were done "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying: Himself took our infirmities, and bare our diseases" (8:17). The Old Testament passage is Isaiah 53:4-6: "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; ye we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." "Griefs" and "sorrows" - pay attention to those two words, keeping in mind the context of Isaiah's prophecy. The sorrow to which Isaiah refers was deeper and more profound than the emotional ache in the hearts of men. The Suffering Servant did not come to open grief counseling center. He did not suffer simply to wipe the tears of those whose lives had been disrupted by physical disease and multiple maladies. Our Lord was fully aware that back of all the disease is the problem of sin. The true sorrow of the world can be traced to sin, whether a person's own individual sin or the sin of humanity. Sin was introduced into the world by Adam (Rom. 5:12-21), and it spread into every corner of this globe and every generation by the power of each individual's choice. Jesus' power to heal the leper by the touch of His hand, or to heal the centurion from a distance by His spoken word, finds its basis in His overall mission to "seek and to save that which is lost" (Luke 19:10). Was this not the point in the case of the man sick of the palsy where Jesus asked His critics: "Which is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Arise and walk?" (Luke 5:23). When it is said that Jesus bore "our griefs, and carried our sorrows" (Isa. 53:4) it is heaven's way of telling us of the great mission of our King to address the root cause of those sorrows. He did this by being "wounded for our transgressions" and "bruised for our iniquities" (Isa. 53:5). Can you imagine a king who would be willing to pay the penalty for the crimes of the citizens of his kingdom? Pick your dictator or despot, and the story is the same. It is most often the case that the innocent suffer for the crimes of the king, but our King came down from the mount of happiness to bear our sorrows.

He Came Down From The Mountain Of Honor To Become A Servant

Prior to His descent to this world of woe, our Lord enjoyed honor and majesty alongside the Father. He basked in heavenly sunshine, and was worshiped by the angels (Heb. 1:6). He enjoyed the "power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing" (Rev. 5:12) deserving of the Godhead. Existing in the "form of God," He "counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped" (Phil. 2:6). Words cannot be found that can adequately describe the majesty of our Lord prior to that moment when He took upon Himself "the form of a servant, [and] being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:7-8). His descent from that 'heavenly mountain' was for no other purpose than to be a Servant of God and humanity, and to give His life a ransom for all. He washed the feet of the disciples thereby teaching them the importance of being a servant (John 13:1-15). He was obedient to the Father in every respect, remaining faithful even unto death.

In the thirty-three years that our Lord sojourned upon this earth, He never once demonstrated a single shred of selfish desire; never seeking to "be served" but seeking rather "to serve." He never had to turn His back on material things because He never sought them in the first place. On one occasion his disciples encouraged Him to eat, but He said unto them, "I have meat to eat that ye know not. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to accomplish his work" (John 4:32-34), and warned all of us, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rush doth consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through and steal" (Matt. 6:19-20). He not only preached that message, but lived that message to its fullest extent. Our Lord never owned any property, never built a house, never lay by in store, never had a passbook savings account, never organized a "garage sell," and never placed an ounce of importance on what one might possess in this life. When His life was finished and His course completed, the only thing He could call His own was stripped from His sinless body and gambled away at the foot of the cross by the Roman soldiers while their Master and Creator hung on the cross close by. Having no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58), He found His rest in the homes of those who were gracious enough to provide His daily sustenance, and grant Him a place of repose when the day was done. All this, because He was willing to come down from the mountain of honor to become a Servant!

He Came Down From The Mountain of Heaven To Be Our Savior

Prior to His incarnation, Jesus shared in the glories of heaven with the Father. He basked in the glory and essence of deity (2 Cor. 8:9). In the beginning He filled the universe with the stars and planets (John 1:1-3) with the simple sound of His voice. He sustained (and still sustains) all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). Yet He was willing to give all that up so that He could set before mankind the feast of abundant life. The New Testament rings with the message of salvation: "Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15a). "And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is he that shall shave his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). W.N. Clarke wrote almost a century ago, "The glory of Christianity is salvation." The great challenge to the church in this century is getting men to realize their need for a Savior. Too many have lost the awareness of this need; too few are inclined to perceive of Him as Savior. One reason for this is the diminished concept of sin in the modern world. Jack Cottrell wrote, "Of course he recognizes that the world is filled with evils, failures, social ills, and conflicts of all kinds; but he just does not want to think of them as sin. This is because sin connotes a wrongdoing for which one is responsible before God, and modern man does not want to see himself in this light. He will take his evil and his failures to sociologists and psychologists, but not to God."

When our "problems" are discussed in social circles they may be described as "disgraceful," "corrupt," "prejudicial," "harmful," or even "evil," but never "sinful." It is obvious that without a sense of sin there can be no real sense of God as our Savior. May God give all of us a deeper appreciation for Jesus as Savior.

Yes, Jesus came down from the mountain of happiness to bear our sorrows. He came down from the mountain of honor to be a Servant. He came down from the mountain of heaven to be our Savior. When the mob cried for the blood of Jesus, they were granted their wicked desires. And while Jesus hung on the cross they taunted the Son of God and challenged Him to "come down from the cross" (Matt. 27:40). He could have; but He refused to do so. Thank God that while Jesus was willing to come down from the mountain, He refused to come down from the cross.
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