Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. —Matthew 5:1
“But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’” —Luke 14:10
“No longer do I [Jesus] call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” —John 15:15
A note on Matthew 5:1 in my ESV Study Bible struck me today: The gospels make a distinction between the “crowd” or “crowds” and Jesus’ disciples. There were many that followed Jesus around to see miracles, get a free meal, etc. But when Jesus sat down to teach, it was his disciples that came to listen. Jesus also did other things such as speaking in parables to differentiate between those that wanted to learn from him and those that didn’t (Matthew 13:10-11).
To come to learn from someone takes humility. It was especially true in Jesus’ time; to be a complete disciple meant leaving all of your own ways of life, and even your own self, to become fully like your teacher. And yet there is a beautiful illustration in Matthew 5: by going up the mountain to teach, Jesus gave an invitation for those who want to be his disciples to come up with him. In a sense, when he sat down on the mountain he was saying: “Friend, move up higher.” He invites us to leave the ordinary world for something that is greater, more pure, and more filled with life: to be a member of the family and kingdom of God.
For some reason sleep has been difficult this past week. I’ve woken up well before sunrise several times. The first time it happened, I spent the hours after I woke up doing not much of anything, then tried to get a little more sleep before the day “really started”. I felt pretty lousy the whole day, and I knew why. God gave me an opportunity to spend time with Him, and I ignored it.
It wasn’t the first time, sadly, that this had happened, but this time a thought really stuck with me: Whenever I wake up, no matter what time it is, I am awake because God wants to spend time with me. Jesus calls his followers his friends, and a person wants to spend time with his friends. But he also knows that he often has to shake up our normal routine to get our attention, and so he shows up at what we consider inopportune times: oh-dark-thirty, a cancelled plan, an unexpected delay.
It is easy to see these things as interruptions. But it is better to see these things as invitations. That way of thinking not only puts our heart in the right attitude, but each time we respond (with faith, humility, and at 4 AM more than a little determination) God will bring us a little higher, a little farther removed from ordinary life, a little closer to Him.
Move up higher. Come closer. Learn from him. Sit at his feet. That is the better portion.