About that same time he climbed a mountain to pray. He was there all night in prayer before God (Luke 6:12 The Message).
Last week the nation met Joe the plumber. Joe’s name came up in the presidential debate on Wednesday night. Joe’s probably wishing now that the candidates had just left him out of it. Many of us are wishing the same thing. Too late.
Once “Joe the plumber” became a household moniker for working people everywhere Joe himself came under scrutiny. By Thursday we were hearing things about Joe. Reports began to circulate that Joe was not actually a licensed plumber. One story stated that a tax lien had been filed against Joe. Joe was under the microscope, a champion to some, scorned by others. Maybe that’s what happens when everyone knows who you are.
The very same dynamic is unfolding in the early chapters of Luke’s gospel. Here it’s all about Jesus the carpenter. Jesus’ reputation is spreading throughout Capernaum and Galilee. His name is getting around. Mark’s gospel says that public response to Jesus had made it difficult for him to openly enter the city limits. Jesus stayed out in remote places – but people still came from everywhere (Mark 1:45).
With the growing reputation and spreading popularity came scrutiny, especially from the clergy. Throughout Luke 5 we read about a series of clashes between Jesus the guild of religionists. They attack most often with questions: Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners? Why don’t your disciples fast like John and his disciples? Why are you doing what us unlawful on the Sabbath?
Question after question, attack after attack, skirmish after skirmish. I heard it said recently that Jesus was constantly in conflict but never in an argument. True enough. But still, the hostilities were escalating, and Jesus surely knew this. By the middle of Luke 6 hostility has flowered into hatred. Plans are being made to do something about Jesus.
Here Luke tells us that it was about this time that Jesus went to a mountain to pray.
We all need a mountain. Not all of us live with widespread criticism; we don’t all deal with public curiosities about our lives. But life has a way of wearing on all of us in different ways. The mountain is a place where we can hear the voice of the One who tells us who we truly are. We need to hear this every day.
More than any gospel writer, Luke pulls the curtain back on the prayer life of Jesus. Jesus prayed all the time. It was his pattern to withdraw to lonely places, to mountains, and seek the Father. This seems to have been especially true at critical junctures of Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus didn’t pray simply because he felt he ought to; he didn’t go to the mountain to set a good example for his followers. Jesus went to the mountain because he needed to. With all the voices that clamored about and tried to define who he was and how he should be, Jesus needed to hear the only voice that mattered.
And if Jesus needed a mountain, we do too. Where’s yours?
Lord Jesus, meet me here at the start of this new day and remind of who you’ve called me to be. Remind me of your love and fill me with your grace. Lead me over and over again to the mountain and teach me to listen for your voice. Amen.