Have you ever had a bad experience camping? You picked what seemed like a good spot and then due to bad weather, bad camping neighbours or a variety of other things it turned out to not be as good as it looked?
What does camping have to do with our spiritual walk? At times where we want to camp is the wrong place. Look at the passages below.
1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. 7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” 8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Matthew 17:1-8 (NKJV)
2 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4 And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”- 6 because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. 7 And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” Mark 9:2-7 (NKJV)
28 Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. 30 And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. 33 Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”-not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” Luke 9:28-35 (NKJV)
In the three parallel passages above we see some different aspects of the story. We know from all three that while speaking with Moses and Elijah Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John. We also know from all three that Peter suggested they build three tabernacles (small temporary shelters). Putting the three together we know that Peter spoke out of fear and a desire to ‘do’ something and that they were sleepy and awoke seeing His glory. At the same time the desire to build the three tabernacles points to Peter’s desire to ‘camp’ at this experience. It was good and Peter wanted to prolong it. Yet when the Father spoke His it was clear that Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets, were there to point to Jesus. They were prophets, Jesus is the Son, the eternal preexistent One.
Have we ever had experiences with Jesus that we seek to replicate or camp at? A good meeting or worship experience? A key experience during a prayer time? These experiences are a byproduct of being with Jesus so if our focus is on them rather than Jesus we can miss our purpose and calling. This glorious experience of the transfiguration was part of preparation for the horror of Gethsemane and the Cross. They both led to something much greater, the resurrection, yet had they “camped” with Jesus on the mountaintop they would have never come back to the valley to the most important event in human history. Jesus sacrificial death and resurrection.
At times we need to stop ‘camping’ at the good to get to the best. In referring to Jesus Paul said, “25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” Romans 4:25 (NKJV) They both needed to happen and neither would have without leaving behind the transfiguration. So the only place we can ‘camp’ is in our relationship with Jesus and then going where He leads. Our lives are to be reshaped and transformed through the power of the resurrection. That is the ultimate experience – being found in Him.
After all, if our faith does not affect how we live, then pray tell what does it affect?