Summary: Christ’s glory was hidden in his humanity, affirmed by the Father, and revealed most fully in his suffering.
On Monday we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Schools are closed, our church office is closed, some of you have the day off, all to commemorate the life work of Rev. Martin Luther King. The day before Rev. King was assassinated he delivered his final sermon in support of sanitation workers on strike in Memphis, Tennessee. When you read that sermon from April 3, 1968 you get the uncanny feeling that Rev. King knew that his death was drawing near. Listen to Rev. King’s words from the conclusion of his final sermon:
"I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter to me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord" ("I’ve Been to the Mountaintop" preached on 4/3/68).
Rev. King had a mountaintop experience that showed him what was to come, and that mountaintop experience filled him with peace as he faced his future.
Mountaintop experiences are like that. In the ancient world, people believed that mountains were special places, places where heaven and earth intersected. The ancient Hebrews believed that mountains were places where godly people encountered God in a special way.
I’ve had a few mountaintop experiences myself. Many of my mountaintop experiences were at Men’s Retreats with our church in the mountains of Wrightwood. I remember sensing God’s direction for my life with a new clarity at one men’s retreat. At other mountaintop experiences I’ve sensed God’s affirmation in my life in a new way or received new insight into myself. At a staff retreat last year I remember sensing God speak to me about a unique need in of one of our staff members and how to best meet that need. There’s something about the smell of pine and brisk wind blowing through your hair, the sights and sounds of the forest, and the solitude of a mountain peak that opens your heart to God in a unique way.
But the problem with mountaintop experiences is that you eventually have to come down the hill. Rev. King had to come down from his mountaintop experience and face the reality of a bullet that would take his life. I remember sinking into a brief depression after some of my mountaintop experiences. You see, after the intensity of the mountaintop, we come back to the normal routine, and the two seem to collide. As one person once said about coming down from the mountaintop, "After the ecstasy comes the laundry." And it’s kind of hard to get excited about the routine things of life. Billy Graham once said, "Mountaintops are for view and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys."