January 7, 2015
As we enter a new year, and as we reflect back on the previous one, here is a question. Over the years how many of us have had an uplifting or deeply emotional spiritual experience that we would like to replicate? These are often referred to as ‘mountaintop’ experiences. Many of us, myself included, seek spiritual encounters and experiences with Jesus, which I think is a good thing. What we need to look at is the purpose. These experiences or encounters are generally meant to teach or reveal something so we need to discern the message to receive the teaching. Take for example the event we refer to as the Mount of Transfiguration. It was a revelation of something to prepare the recipients for something else.
1 And He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.” 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!” 8 Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. 9 Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant. 11 And they asked Him, saying, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 Then He answered and told them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him.” Mark 9:1-13 (NKJV)
When we look at the passage above there are a number of things to be learned. First, the general teaching is that the problem in the passage is that Peter sought to elevate Moses and Elijah to the same level as Jesus, which is of course a problem since Jesus was God incarnate while Moses and Elijah were servants of Yahweh. This is obviously a correct interpretation given the context and the Father’s rebuke. Peter, like most of us, wanted to stay and camp at his experience. This was behind the idea of building tabernacles. They were tents or booths, and while they were meant to be temporary they were still meant to be lived in for a period of time.
So, while it is easy to see what not to do, what should we do? First we can ask why Jesus took them there in the first place. The passage tells us, Jesus wanted them to see the transforming reality of the kingdom present with power and wanted the experience to prepare them for ministry after His death and resurrection. A key aspect of this event was in verse 7 where Yahweh’s glory overshadowed them. The Greek word used here is only used 5 times in the NT, here and in the parallel accounts of the Transfiguration in Matthew and Luke then in the two other places below.
35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35 (NKJV) 15 so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Acts 5:15 (NKJV)
The message is that when He comes in power and overshadows us it produces change, it releases life and healing. So while we may not find ourselves praying for the transfiguration to be revealed to us, we can pray that His presence would so rest upon us that it would release life and healing to others around us. The key point in this passage is that we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, but in addition to the message of His overshadowing presence what else can we learn from this passage?
- The righteous live on in His presence after death
- The unveiling of the kingdom brings transformation
- Those in the spirit realm can communicate with this realm if directed by Yahweh
- Those who have gone before are aware of what is happening in our world (Heb. 12:1, the great cloud of witnesses)
- We are not to build idols
- In appearing Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets (the common term in Jesus day for what we refer to as the Old Testament), showing that the entire OT points to Jesus, everything is summed up in Him!
There may be other things to learn from this passage yet I think a key general message is that mountaintop experiences, while wonderful, are meant to prepare us for something else. Having been on top of quite a few actual mountains I can tell you that in general if you want to survive you need to pack in your food. There is little at the top of mountains, particularly above the treeline. You do not plant, sow, and reap crops on the top of mountains. The experience is a reward for the journey but fruitfulness is found in the valley.
Rich soil and gentle streams are at the bottom of mountains, often far away. This is the place where we need to live out what we have experienced on the mountain. The place of needy people, diapers that need to be changed, people to be supported and ministered to, and a hundred other things. We all need some degree of mountaintops to sustain what we do in the valleys, and we can have encounters when we daily sit with Him or worship Him, yet these encounters are meant to point us to the valley, the place of fruitful ministry.
So in conclusion, there is usually much we can learn and draw from our experiences on the mountain, and most of the lessons are meant to be applied in the valley, the place of fruitfulness. So may you encounter Him often and find strength to give much to others in the building up of His body, the church.