Summary: We don’t live on the mountaintop - we live in the valley of the ordinary presence of Jesus
On the Mountain
September 19, 2010
If you have your Bibles, open with me to Luke chapter 9, beginning with vs 18:
Luke 9:18-36 (NIV) Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "The Christ of God." Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God." About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.
Here we see three disciples with Jesus having a literal mountaintop experience - that is, they were on top of a real mountain - and also what we might call today a figurative mountaintop experience, an emotional or spiritual experience.
There’s a good reason we began reading this passage just before this experience that Peter, James and John had. Note what Jesus said in verse 23:
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Jesus is telling his disciples what the norm would be for their life if they would follow Him wholeheartedly. Self denial – taking up the cross. Losing your life.
How can we say this will be the norm? Jesus did say “daily” didn’t He?
Then at the end of this discourse, He tells them that some who are there with him will see the Kingdom of God. Here’s where we see the mountaintop experience.
Though they were literally on top of a mountain, the spiritual experience was certainly even more significant.
Many of us can relate to some degree to what the apostles experienced that day. Many of us have had emotional or spiritual mountaintop experiences. These things are part of the ebb and flow of our lives.
About a month ago, Barb and I had a literal mountaintop experience, which was also more than that, as evidenced by this morning’s message. We had the pleasure of spending nearly 90 minutes on top of a 14,264-foot mountain in Colorado while we were on vacation.
I’d like to say that we climbed this peak, like Kirk Wester did Long’s Peak, which was, by the way, Kirk, five feet shorter than Mt Evans. But we took the wimpy route, and because this is the highest paved road in North America, we actually drove to near the top, and then hiked a quarter mile trail about another 150 feet up to the summit.
We spent most of this week of vacation at higher elevations – twice driving or hiking to nearly 12,000 feet, and then this time at 14,000-plus. There’s something about being so high that’s spiritually inspiring. Part of my temperament finds tremendous peace, real perspective in these settings.