"Why would Jesus climb up a mountain? The crowd of people was already right behind Him. He could have turned around and taught the multitude right where He was.
One possible answer is that He could have climbed the mountain for the spiritual setting and closeness to God. Throughout the scriptures, mountaintops often symbolize temples, and many prophets—Nephi, Moses, and the brother of Jared, to name a few—have climbed to the tops of mountains as prelude to spiritual experiences. Jesus often went to mountains to commune with God.
However, my branch president speculated that there was another reason why. When Jesus saw the multitude behind Him, He knew that people were following Him for different reasons. Some were curious—they had heard about His miracles and wanted to see something miraculous themselves. Others might have seen the growing crowd and trailed along like sheep in a herd. A few in the multitude were serious followers; they followed to hear Christ’s teachings and learn of Him.
The rest of the first verse in Matthew 5 reads: “And when [Jesus] was set, his disciples came unto him.” Although this certainly includes Christ’s chosen Apostles, the word disciple could encompass more people than the 12 men alone. Disciple means “a follower of Jesus Christ who lives according to Christ’s teachings.” These dedicated disciples of Christ were the ones willing to climb the mountain to hear the Savior—not the curious miracle-seekers or the sheep-like tagalongs—and they were the ones who got to hear the Sermon on the Mount.
God does not just want bystanders; He wants disciples. He wants us to live the gospel because we love and want to serve Him. So, to separate the curious from the serious, He will allow us to climb a “mountain”—He will give us trials that will test our faith."
Young Adult Section, September 2018 Ensign
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