As I looked out from the Adamek Hutte (pronounces hoo-tay) nestled in the rocky slopes of the Austrian Alps, and eerie fog began to settle over the peeks of the majestic mountains. Unlike many other parts of Austria, there is no green to be seen. The Adamek Hutte is one in a series of huttes scattered throughout the Alps as a refuge for backpacking-weary souls. But it is one of the few that sits at the base of a glacier, completely surrounded by grey stones and chilly air. The next morning, we set out to summit the Hauher Dachstein, the tallest mountain in Austrian and our most difficult climb to date.
We were tethered together as we climbed higher and higher so that if one were to break through the glacier into the ice caverns below, they would be spared. Thankfully, no such thing happened, but of all the climbs I did in Austria this one is by far my favorite. It was difficult and freezing cold, yet breathtakingly resplendent. The frigid grey that clung to the mountainside was sharply contrasted by the warmth of God’s word that flowed through me during that trip. I was in Austria to climb, yes, but more importantly, to learn about Jesus with 39 other souls from every part of the globe.
On the peaks of almost every climbable mountain in Austria sits a cross. Some are made of wood and show the wear of sitting in the same place for hundreds of years. Some are made of steel, never to be moved. They are there as an Ebenezer, a memorial, to those who fought openly and smuggled Bibles quietly through the mountains years ago. But like most of the beautiful religious origins in Europe, they have simply become a sign that you’ve made it to the top, a selfie-worthy place to commemorate a climb. And like the Adamek Hutte’s environment, they feel dark and grey.
In Matthew 11 we see a change in Jesus’ speech. Until now, Jesus has healed, encouraged, preached and performed countless miracles. Chapter 11 dawns with a somber tone. John the Baptist, now sitting in Herod’s prison, asks a question to confirm that Jesus was truly the “Coming One,” even after seeing a dove and hearing the voice of God proclaiming Him as such. Then, starting in verse 20, Jesus sharply rebukes (“woe to you”) three cities..
Jesus’ main ministry was in the three cities that He denounced. They had seen it all and heard it all; yet they were indifferent to the call of repentance. And much like crosses that adorn the Austrian Alps, they forgot from whence they came. Jesus should matter! His life and teachings should challenge and change us. When we have been called to repent of the things we’ve done that are not pleasing to God, we are to do it! God is kind and loving and forgives openly, but that is not a call to live a “whatever” lifestyle.
Jesus provides a way that reveals the Father to us; even to those who have just an ounce of understanding. Jesus desires for us to seek Him, turn away from things that are not of Him, and find rest and refuge in Him. It’s like coming down from the haunting and chilly Hauher Dachstein into the warmth and laughter of Adamek Hutte, sipping hot cocoa by the fire and eating Kaiserschmarne. It is choosing to live abundantly in Christ instead of being apathetically entangled in the affairs of this world.
We know Him so let’s live like it.