Summary: We need to move from the mountaintop into the valley, from transformation to sacrifice, if we are going to be effective in the world.
I don’t know about you but very often the place when I feel nearer to God is on top of a mountain. Mountain top experiences are great, and when I’m standing there, on top of a mountain enjoying the awesome majesty of God’s creation, that’s fantastic. And those who have been silly enough to follow me up mountains will agree with me that when you get there, you forget the pain of the climb, you just enjoy the moment.
And here the disciples are having a mountain top experience. Jesus, who has just told his disciples He is going to Jerusalem to die, goes up a up mountain and He is met by Moses and Elijah, two men who appeared too great to die.
Moses the greatest law giver and Elijah, greatest prophet. It’s a story which appears in three synoptic gospels. It’s a story shrouded in mystery, a story which has been the subject of many paintings, the most famous of which is probably the one by Raphael which hangs in the Vatican Museum.
Some would tell us that the fact that we are told he met Moses and Elijah is confirmation that we will recognise each other in the after life. I wonder how they recognised Moses and Elijah, it can’t have been from their appearance, there were no photos to compare with, so we won’t spend any time on that, the important thing is Bible tells us who they were, and they spoke with Jesus. They confirmed He was on the right path and then God came along and gave His confirmation.
The greatest law giver and the greatest prophet confirms Jesus’ mission and the apostles who were there would not soon forget this. Years later when Peter is writing his second letter he remembers
and he wrote ‘We saw His majestic splendour with our own eyes when He received honour and glory from God the Father.’
This was landmark moment, a mountain top experience, a confirmation, we call it the transfiguration and in the New Living Translation it says that Jesus was transformed.
And, not surprisingly, the apostles don’t know what to do and Peter who can’t just stand still and be quiet, blurts out and in effect says ‘hey Lord it’s great to be here, if you want I’ll make three shelters’, in other words ‘if you want we can settle here, we can stay here’.
Peter has not long before told Jesus off for thinking about going to Jerusalem to His death, here’s another chance to stop that, so let’s build some tents and stay here, and the Bible says that even as he spoke a bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud.
No one was really paying any attention to Peter, there were greater forces at work, and greater destinies which needed to unfold. There is no doubt that the mount of transfiguration was a spiritual peak for Jesus, and for the apostles who accompanied Him.
What we are going to look at today is not what it was, but what followed, what they did with this experience. We have seen Peter wanted to stay there I am sure some of the others would have been content to do the same, but the moment was but a step in the way. For the apostles it dispels some of the dark cloud of fear which Jesus’ foretelling of His death must have awakened and the whole episode speaks of, and proclaims the glory of God. God in majesty, God transcendent, God in power, God in control.
For Jesus, it was a time of confirmation, a time of enabling and recharging of batteries as it were before the final lap. And it is clear the apostles still did not understand, it might have given them some understanding that the cross was not going to be a humiliation, that God was in this, but Peter could not grasp the concept of standing still in the presence of God.
Peter always the man of action wants to do something, even if that something is not what is required, he does not recognise that there is a time for silence, a time for reverence, a time for absorbing the glory of God. Psalm 46:10 says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God!’ but sometimes we get so wrapped up in the moment that we can’t absorb the moment, we get so wrapped up in what is going on around us that we can’t absorb it and enjoy it, we feel we have to do something, when all that is required is that we worship in silent adoration.
On the other hand as I have already said Peter wanted to wait on the mountain, to prolong the moment. Because it is in our nature to want to hang on to mountain top experiences, it happens every time we go to a great conference, or we have a church weekend away. We are on a spiritual high and we don’t want to come down into the valley of the reality of every day life, especially if that does not promise much comfort or joy, and that is understandable.