The sun was bright, and the sky was clear as I climbed on top of Mount Arbel. This mountain is a special one in the life of Jesus and special to those who follow Him. It stands today, as it did over two thousand years ago, as one of the tallest peaks surrounding the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. I was there with a group from our church who was studying the life of Christ. Still to this day, the first glance at the view from Mount Arbel stays with me.
Standing on top of Arbel, you can see for miles. Looking to the north, you can see the peak of Mount Hermon, the largest mountain in Israel towering over the borders between Lebanon, Syria and Israel. To the east, you can see the Golan Heights, the black, basalt stoned tabletop range that separates Israel from the countries of Syria and Jordan. Looking to the south, you can see the fertile farmlands of the Jezreel Valley spread out like a patchwork quilt on the floor until it reaches the rolling hills of Samaria. And looking to the west, you can barely make out two tall towers of a major electrical plant that sits on the coastal plain next to the ancient city of Caesarea Maritima, the ancient port city constructed by King Herod where the Apostle Paul set sail to Rome, carrying the Gospel with him to the West.
From one panoramic view you can see the nations. And this is precisely why Jesus chose this place to give His followers what we know today as the “Great Commission”. Why do we believe Jesus stood on Mount Arbel? There are some clues that point to this conclusion. First, the mountain stands along the well-traveled route between Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee called the “Valley of Doves”. Since Jesus lived in Nazareth most of His growing up years, He must have traveled this way many times.
Another piece of circumstantial evidence is the fact that Arbel is the tallest mountain in Galilee. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that after Jesus’ resurrection, He gave instructions for His disciples to go to the mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28.16 ESV). While He didn’t specify which one, the disciples certainly knew the place. They had been there many times before. Who knows, maybe Jesus and His men spent the night up on this mountain, dreaming of what God would do with their lives one day. There is no archaeological evidence to substantiate Jesus’ presence on this mountain, but if Arbel isn’t the mountain, then I’m not sure which one it would be.
So imagine you are standing there with me with the wind blowing in your face as you lean against the galvanized pipe safety rail fixed along the ridge of the steep precipice. Imagine your feet standing on the exact mountain where the disciples stood. Imagine hearing Jesus’ words cut through the air. “…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28.19-20 ESV).
What was Jesus doing? He was casting a vision – a vision of a global movement of multiplication. Just days before, they had seen Him crucified at the hands of the brutal Romans, hung on a rugged cross and despised by the religious leaders. They saw His lifeless body taken down and placed in a borrowed tomb. Three days later they saw Jesus risen from the dead, His body now transfigured, yet still bearing the scars of the cross. All of this was in preparation for their new mission in life. Now He was challenging them, commissioning them to invest their lives in a movement that would change the course of human history and alter the eternal trajectory of the lives of millions. It was a big vision… it still is!
Today, countless men and women are joining Jesus and His vision to make disciples to the ends of the world. Some walk away from the comfort of their homes and careers to plant churches and preach the Gospel in remote parts of the planet. Some dear friends of mine, Duane and Deanna devoted their retirement years to relentlessly travel into the far away bush areas of Africa, Asia and Central America to tell people about Jesus and train up pastors. They first met in college; Duane was a promising basketball player, and Deanna was a cheerleader. After graduation, Duane became one of the most successful basketball coaches in the state of Texas and was later inducted into the Texas Coaches Hall of Fame.
Among all the accolades and success, Duane and Deanna were fiercely committed to serving Jesus. Duane eventually left coaching for his first love, telling people about Christ and making disciples. Their sacrifice and determination continues to inspire me. But, you don’t have to leave your career to ignite a movement of multiplication. I know businessmen, doctors, lawyers, salesman, stay-at-home moms and college students, who are committed to making disciples where they live, learn, work and play. You can begin right where God has planted you – in your neighborhood, in your school, at your job site, etc. God wants to use you to make disciples who will also make disciples for a lifetime. Now you may be asking, “How can I do that? My schedule is busy, my life is fast paced: how can I really make a difference?”
In the first book of the Grow Series entitled “Walk with God,” you learned how to make Jesus the center of your life, listen to His voice, pray and live in Christian community. In the second book entitled “Reach your World,” you learned how to live on mission with Jesus every day by sharing the Gospel with the people God has put in your life. Now in this third book of the series, you will learn how to “Invest In a Few” – by taking what you have learned and investing it in the lives of others. Yes, you know how to be a disciple. Now it’s time to build disciple makers! Jesus is still sending out His commission. He’s still looking for men and women who will join Him in His global vision. And if you are ready and willing, Jesus can use you to make a lasting impact on the generations to come. So let’s get started!
Written by Craig Etheredge
Photo credit: Mario Purisic