As we approach the Lenten season we notice that Jesus is preparing his disciples for his departure, even though it seemed like the disciples were not getting it. In his ministry, Jesus had developed what we call an inner circle in which he shared some of his intimate moments like what we read about today. Jesus takes with him three inner circle friends (Peter, John and James) to support him in his prayers as he goes through a difficult time of his life. This incident is also recorded in Matthew 17:1-13 and Mark 9:2-13.
There are times in our journey that we need our friends to lift us in prayers because it becomes hard to do it ourselves, depending on what we are going through. It was decision time and different forces were coming from all directions. It is what we can call a mountain-top experience. This kind of mountain experience can be traced in several incidences in the Old Testament (Mt. Sinai in Exodus 31:18 as Moses was handed the tablets and Mt. Horeb in 1 Kings 19:9-12 when the word of God comes to Elijah). These three men formed his inner circle that he counted on when he had a hard task ahead. WE are told that it was six days after Peter had answered that difficult question about who the disciples thought Jesus was. It was Peter who said that, “You are the Christ.” This took place in Caesarea Philippi. Jesus took the three and went up the mountain to pray. He left them a short distance away to set himself but they could see him and he asked them to be praying. On this day Jesus was transfigured and his body was shining. As team leaders, Jesus wanted them to see life beyond the cross, for them to see beyond the cross and see the glory of God.
We also need to remember that Jesus had told them that he was going back to Jerusalem for the last time, where he was to die. The disciples, like anybody would have done, tried to talk him out of it, but he rebuked them for he knew what needed to be done. But before he could take this journey to the cross, he needed a confirmation form God so as to know if he was doing God’s will and that he was not doing his own will. In this experience, like the baptism of Jesus, there was a voice heard confirming that Jesus was the Son of God and the disciples needed to obey him … and the leaders heard this.
We, therefore, come to the mountain-top experience that brings wonderful feelings. Up there was Moses who represented the law. He represented the old covenant. Elijah represented the prophets. He foretold the coming of the messiah. What is true to these two people, each of them had a mountain-top experience. Both men left the world in a unique way; Moses died up the mountain in the land of Moab and nobody ever saw the body, while Elijah was taken up in the chariot while Elisha looked on.
When we think of the mountain top experience, which the Bible calls transfiguration, our lives are moved to see things in a new way. For the mountain-top experience to take place in our lives we have to allow our hearts and spirit to experience God in a new way. It is only those who are willing to open their heart to God who can truly have this experience. WE don’t have mountain experiences all the time. God opens opportunities in our lives in many ways. People can have them while driving, cooking, working in the garden, attending a church service or even a retreat or seminar. The way we know that it is a mountain-top experience is: you feel a new joy in your heart, happiness, excitement, sometimes even tears may come.
Have you wondered why sometimes in worship your tears start to fall? It is because you have allowed God in the inner part of your life and the Spirit is working. Sometimes this experience can be so strong that you can’t stop the tears. Since the experiences do not happen all the time we enjoy them. But always remember, every mountain-top experience is accompanied by work down in the valley, just as the disciples discovered after their experience with Jesus. Down in the valley was a father with a sick child that needed healing. They had to go back to work.
From this experience, where we behold the glory of God, we can learn some important lessons:
1. Mountain-top experiences – behold God’s glory: Jesus, at this point in his ministry, wished to invite his close friends to experience the glory of God. This glory of God would transform their thinking and their understanding of God: through God’s glory shame is turned to triumph, humiliation to a crown beyond the cross. As Peter and other disciples looked at Jesus, they would see God’s presence and holiness. These moments are important in our journey so that we can see God. Mountain-tops are where we seek the will of God and therefore we need to be going there often. At the mountain-top we get refilled for the work ahead of us. Jesus went up on the mountain to pray as well as to confirm the will of God. We have other mountain top experiences that may not be spiritual but the key is to enjoy the experience: the birth of a baby, weddings, graduations, promotions, new homes, new cars, Valentine cards…
2. Mountain-top experiences – be still: Peter was an action-oriented person. He could not stay still. He had to be seen doing something. That is why he suggests that they need to build the three tens, one for Moses, Elijah and Jesus. Some of us are like Peter when we have to be doing something but the Bible reminds us that these is a time for everything. Jesus taught us a good lesson here: a time for contemplation, be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). Before we stand and fight we must wonder and pray on our knees. It is a time to be fed. We need food for the journey. We can’t transform the world unless we are first transformed. We have to soak (like a sponge_ with the right things so that when the squeeze comes, we will have the right thing come out.
3. Mountain-top experiences -not forever: The last temptation is to want to stay up on the mountain and never go down. Peter wanted to build tents up there. Some of our mountain-top experiences have come when we have attended Women of Faith retreats, Walk to Emmaus, camping trips…But the fact of life is that we can’t stay in these places forever. We have to go home or to our regular life settings. We have to face the reality down in the valley for that is where we live. People sometimes are tempted to stay up the mountain when they refuse to see the sufferings around the neighborhoods, injustices that are taking place around them, discriminations that are mad and they look the other way, as if that is the way of life. We have to go down the mountain to serve for that is where we live.
Let’s go down the mountain and love God’s people – the unloved.
Let’s go down the mountain and serve God - in missions and other fields.
Let’s go down the mountain and listen - to the disturbed child and the abused.
Let’s go down the mountain and give – to the needy and for missions.
Let’s go down the mountain and comfort – a crying mother who has lost a child, a spouse who has lost a loved one.
Let’s go down the mountain and offer courage – to the discouraged mother, a bullied child.
God down the mountain and offer food and shelter – for a homeless family, to the marginalized.
What is the message of your mountain-top experience today? Each will have their own message. Go act on it! For we all live in the valley and only go up the mountain to be refilled.