Summary: Why did Jesus lead Peter, James and John up on the Mountain? And why would God make it so they could see Moses and Elijah speaking with Christ that day?
The story in our text today is recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke and I believe it’s the source of the phrase “A Mountain Top Experience. So, over the past week I went searching for stories and quotes about Mountain top experiences, and I stumbled on this comment: “The Outing Club is hosting world traveler and Mount Everest Climber, Jeff Strite.” (https://www.facebook.com/events/olin-lecture-hall-268/guest-speaker-jeff-strite/759160597582584/)
I bet you never knew I climbed Mt. Everest, did you? Well… I didn’t. But someone else named Jeff Strite did! He climbed Mount Everest. And he’s not the only one - Mt Everest is the highest mountain on earth and is a popular destination for mountain climbers. But you better have a lot of money to do this because, last I read, it presently costs climbers about $20,000 to make that trek. The famed climber George Mallory was asked Why climb Everest? And he replied: “Because it’s there”
Like I said, Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell of Jesus at the Mountain of Transfiguration, but Luke tells why:
Jesus “… took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to PRAY. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Luke 9:28-31
Now, WHY did they go UP ON the mountain? (TO PRAY) At least… that’s why Jesus went up there. Peter, James and John probably went simply because Jesus was there, and wherever He went, that’s where they wanted to be.
But apparently there was another reason Jesus took them up the mountain. It seems He’d taken them there for a little bit of show and tell - Something they could only see… on the Mountaintop. In Matthew we’re told that Jesus “was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Matthew 17:2-3
So, what’s going on? Why did Jesus bring His disciples up the mountain for this “Mountaintop Experience?” Well, in the Bible, whenever God wanted to get people’s attention it seems He took them to a mountain.
In Exodus we read that After God brought the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt, He had MOSES bring them to MOUNT Sinai. And while they were there God came down upon the mountain with a cloud and filled the sky with thunder and lightning and He spoke with such authority that the people trembled.
Do you think God got the people’s attention? Oh yeah. In fact, it was God’s intention to get their attention to make sure that they NEVER forgot what happened that day.
And then there was ELIJAH (the other man on the Mountain with Jesus). In the days of Elijah, God once again brought His people to another Mountain (Mt. Carmel) and it was there on that mountain that Elijah challenged the pagan prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth to a contest. And in the midst of that contest, God sent fire from heaven that consumed Elijah’s sacrifice.
Do you think God got the people’s attention? Oh yeah. In fact, it was God’s intention to get their attention to make sure they NEVER forgot what happened that day.
And now here in Matthew, Jesus takes His closest disciples up on the Mountain, and we’re told Jesus “was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” Matthew 17:2
Do you think God got the disciples attention? Yeah. In fact, it had such a powerful effect on Peter that he later wrote in II Peter 1:16-18 “… we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”
So here is Jesus, on the Mt of Transfiguration, meeting with Moses and Elijah. But why? Why were Moses and Elijah there? Well, Moses represented the Law (That’s why it’s called the Law of Moses). And in the minds of the Jews, Elijah represented the Prophets. In fact, to this day Elijah is so important that his name is mentioned at the end of every weekly Sabbath, and he’s also a major character in the Passover feast.
So, in essence, Moses and Elijah summed up the entire Old Testament scriptures. And here are these two men Moses and Elijah, on the Mountain, talking with Jesus. And we’re told “a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear.’ And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.” Matthew 17:5-8