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... Jesus took them apart up into that mountain. 'To pray, ' no doubt in connection with 'those sayings; 's ince their reception required quite as much the direct teaching of the Heavenly Father, as had the previous confession of Peter, of which it was, indeed, the complement, the other aspect, the twin height. And the Transfiguration, with its attendant glorified Ministry and Voice from heaven, was God's answer to that prayer. What has already been stated, has convinced us that it could not have been to one of the highest peaks of Hermon, as most modern writers suppose, that Jesus led His companions.
There are three such peaks: those north and south, of about equal height (9, 400 feet above the sea, and nearly 11, 000 above the Jordan valley), are only 500 paces distant from each other, while the third, to the west (about 100 feet lower), is separated from the others by a narrow valley. Now, to climb the top of Hermon is, even from the nearest point, an Alpine ascent, trying and fatiguing, which would occupy a whole day (six hours in the ascent and four in the descent), and require provisions of food and water; while, from the keenness of the air, it would be impossible to spend the night on the top. 3 To all this there is no allusion in the text, nor slightest hint of either difficulties or preparations, such as otherwise would have been required. Indeed, a contrary impression is left on the mind. 'Up into an high mountain apart, ' 'to pray. ' The Sabbath-sun had set, and a delicious cool hung in the summer air, as Jesus an the three commenced their ascent. From all parts of the land, far as Jerusalem or Tyre, the one great object in view must always have been snow-clad Hermon. And now it stood out before them - as, to the memory of the traveller in the West, Monte Rosa or Mont Blanc 4 - in all the wondrous glory of a sunset: first rose-colored, then deepening red, next 'the death-like pallor, and the darkness relieved by the snow, in quick succession. ' 5 From high up there, as one describes it, 6 'a deep ruby flush came over all the scene, and warm purple shadows crept slowly on.
The sea of Galilee was lit up with a delicate greenish-yellow hue, between its dim walls of hill. The flush died out in a few minutes, and a pale, steel-coloured shade succeeded... A long pyramidal shadow slid down to the eastern foot of Hermon, and crept across the great plain; Damascus was swallowed up by it; and finally the pointed end of the shadow stood out distinctly against the sky - a dusky cone of dull colour against the flush of the afterglow. It was the shadow of the mountain itself, stretching away for seventy miles across the plain - the most marvellous shadow perhaps to be seen anywhere. The sun underwent strange changes of shape in the thick vapours - now almost square, now like a domed Temple - until at length it slid into the sea, and went out like a blue spark. ' And overhead shone out in the blue summer-sky, one by one, the stars in Eastern brilliancy. We know not the exact direction which the climbers took, nor how far their journey went.
But there is only one road that leads from C 27873; rea Philippi to Hermon, and we cannot be mistaken in following it. First, among vine-clad hills stocked with mulberry, apricot and fig-trees; then, through corn-fields where the pear tree supplants the fig; next, through oak coppice, and up rocky ravines to where the soil is dotted with dwarf shrubs. And if we pursue the ascent, it still becomes steeper, till the first ridge of snow is crossed, after which turfy banks, gravelly slopes, and broad snow-patches alternate. The top of Hermon in summer - and it can only be ascended in summer or autumn - is free from snow, but broad patches run down the sides expanding as they descend. To the very summit it is well earthed; to 500 feet below it, studded with countless plants, higher up with dwarf clumps. 7 As they ascend in the cool of that Sabbath evening, the keen mountain air must have breathed strength into the climbers, and the scent of snow - for which the parched tongue would long in summer's heat 8 - have refreshed them.
We know not what part may have been open to them of the glorious panorama from Hermon embracing as it does a great part of Syria from the sea to Damascus, from the Lebanon and the gorge of the Litany to the mountains of Moab; or down the Jordan valley to the Dead Sea; or over Galilee, Samaria, and on to Jerusalem and beyond it. But such darkness as that of a summer's night would creep on. And now the moon shone out in dazzling splendour, cast long shadows over the mountain, and lit up the broad patches of snow, reflecting their brilliancy on the objects around. On that mountain-top 'He prayed. ' Although the text does not expressly state it, we can scarcely doubt, that He prayed with them, and still less, that He prayed for them, as did the Prophet for his servant, when the city was surrounded by Syrian horsemen: that his eyes might be opened to behold heaven's host - the far 'more that are with us than they that are with them. ' 9 And, with deep reverence be it said, for Himself also did Jesus pray. For, as the pale moonlight shone on the fields of snow in the deep passes of Hermon, so did the light of the coming night shine on the cold glitter of Death in the near future.
He needed prayer, that in it His Soul might lie calm and still - perfect, in the unruffled quiet of His Self-surrender, the absolute rest of His Faith, and the victory of His Sacrificial Obedience. And He needed prayer also, as the introduction to, and preparation for, His Transfiguration. Truly, He stood on Hermon. It was the highest ascent, the widest prospect into the past, present, and future, in His Earthly Life.
Yet was it but Hermon at night. And this is the human, or rather the Theanthropic view of this prayer, and of its consequence. As we understand it, the prayer with them has ceased, or it had merged into silent prayer of each, or Jesus now prayed alone and apart, when what gives this scene such a truly human and truthful aspect ensued. It was but natural for these men of simple habits, at night, and after the long ascent, and in the strong mountain-air, to be heavy with sleep. And we also know it as a psychological f...
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