“On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met [Jesus].” Luke 9:36 (NRSV)
Have you ever had a mountaintop experience? If so, it may have been a spiritual retreat week-end, your marriage, receiving special recognition, having children, literally hiking a mountain to the top, walking the beach, a sudden revelation about something, a musical or dramatic performance with lots of applause, a good performance in some sporting event, or any number of times when your life was lifted up and in a really wonderful place. What did it feel like? How did you respond? Then, what happened as you settled back into every day life and routines? Let down? Depression? Disappointment that it hadn’t lasted?
Three of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, John, and James, went with Jesus up a mountain to pray. While they were there, Jesus was transfigured before their very eyes – a dazzling, bright light coming from his clothes blinded him, and Moses and Elijah appeared in the midst of it to talk with Jesus. Then a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (v. 35). The three disciples were speechless at first, and they probably stumbled around inside their heads as to what to do next. Peter eventually found his voice and suggested that they build booths to commemorate the event – much like we do when we take pictures of special events in our lives.
But Jesus didn’t want that, and God had clearly said to “listen!” It was an amazing, awesome and awe-filled experience for those three mere mortals! And as they came down the mountain from this magnificent, indescribable event in their lives, Jesus says, “Don’t tell anyone!” Excuse me? Don’t tell anyone? But . . . Jesus, come on, we just saw something fantastic here, and you don’t want us to share it with anyone? Really?
Jesus knew they couldn’t comprehend the event until after his death and resurrection. The entire experience was one of affirming Jesus’ identity as God’s Son – as God in the flesh. So, they needed to see the whole picture before they could begin to share it with some understanding.
And then look at what happened after their mountaintop experience: they came down the mountain to the same old thing – crowds pushing around Jesus and asking for healing. It was the same dusty street, the same old, same old work, the same pressures, the same expectations and demands. What a let-down! Jesus jumped right into the routine without even missing a beat. The disciples really DIDN’T get it!
We are like that too at times. We go on vacation and have a great time, playing, eating, laughing, visiting family and friends, and we come back refreshed and renewed, rejuvenated and restored only to find that the same pile of work awaits us on our desk, the same problems are in our lives, the world is the same (or maybe even worse) than when we took a week or two off. Rats! Ugh!
Mountaintop experience, I think, are there for us to appreciate the opportunities we have in all of life. When we experience God in a new way, we are transformed into new beings although the same on the outside and with our daily routines, we begin to discover the joys in all of life, in our every day, ordinary events and circumstances. Vacations, mountaintop experiences, times when things are different can help us find ways to better live out our lives as God’s children.
If everything seems drab and tends to drag us down after some kind of wonderful event, maybe it’s worth our while to stop to think about what we learned and how we can bring it with us into our work, at home, in the marketplace, with our families and friends. What can we take from the experience to make our lives better? And then how can we help others to make a difference with them? The mountain top prepares us for the valleys and we need both in our lives in order to live fully. May you cherish the mountaintops and live in “shalom” in the valleys! God bless.