Have you ever had a mountaintop experience? A time when all is right in your world, a time when God seems closer than ever? A mountaintop experience can come to us in many different ways. It can come through an amazing worship experience. It can come while we are participating in a church retreat. It can come when God lifts us out of a valley in which we have been struggling. No matter how it comes, being on the mountaintop is an experience that strengthens our faith, draws us closer to God, and brings us great joy. And for these reasons, our desire may be to dwell on that mountaintop, to stay in that place and not move forward. That was the case for Peter, James, and John, when they experienced the ultimate mountaintop experience with Jesus. Let’s look that experience.
About eight days later Jesus took Peter, John, and James up on a mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus. They were glorious to see. And they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem. Peter and the others had fallen asleep. When they woke up, they saw Jesus’ glory and the two men standing with him. As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter, not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out, “Master, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Luke 9:28-33)
While on that mountaintop, the three disciples experienced something that few mortal men have experienced this side of heaven, Jesus in His heavenly glory. And their first response was to look to set up shelters, to make the place a memorial and just linger there. But here’s the thing. Mountaintops are not meant to be a destination. We are not meant to stay there. Mountaintops are milestones in our journey of life, in our walk of faith. As Peter blurted out his desire to make that mountaintop a memorial, to make it a destination, God interrupted.
But even as he was saying this, a cloud overshadowed them, and terror gripped them as the cloud covered them. Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.” When the voice finished, Jesus was there alone. They didn’t tell anyone at that time what they had seen. (Luke 9:34-36)
In Mark’s gospel, after the heavenly interruption, we read that Jesus led the disciples back down the mountain and told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead (Mark 9:9). Jesus was telling them not to linger on their mountaintop experience. They needed to leave the mountaintop and wait because they would see something even greater. There were more mountaintops to come. If we linger on the mountaintop we are currently on, we can miss out on the next mountaintop. When we make the mountaintop a memorial or a monument and linger at that memorial or monument, we may miss the milestones ahead of us, we may miss the mountaintops ahead.
Sure, it would be wonderful to stay on the mountaintop and bask in God’s glory, but true discipleship means denying one’s self, taking up a cross, and following Jesus. We can’t do that while lingering on the mountaintop. We can’t make the mountaintop our destination. In the valley below, there are people who are suffering. There are needs to be met and people who need to be pointed to Jesus. When Jesus and the three disciples returned to the valley, this is what they experienced, as the father of a demon-possessed boy brought his son to Jesus for help. If we want to share Jesus’ glory on the mountaintop, we must also be willing to follow Him into the sufferings of the valley below.
God gives us the mountaintops for a reason. When we are on the mountaintop, we have a special vantage point. We can see the valley that we have just been lifted out of and we can see the valleys ahead of us. But we can also see that there are more mountaintops ahead. So God gives us the mountaintops to renew us, to take us from the trouble of the valley to the hope of the mountaintop, and also to bolster our faith and strengthen us for the valleys ahead. And, of course, God gives us the mountaintops so that, by sharing our experience with others, we can point them to Jesus and encourage them in the valleys in which they may find themselves. To share that experience, we need to meet them in that valley. We can’t stay on the mountaintop.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.