The problem with mountaintop experiences is that they are exactly that… The top of the mountain. There’s only one way left to go. And so that amazing holiday is followed by the daily grind of work, the heights of marriage or other relationships are followed by struggles, and the spiritual high moments can be followed by challenges and new awareness of weakness. Yet, it’s the daily grind and struggles and weaknesses that not only help us appreciate the mountaintop but are also incredibly significant parts of life and growth.
On the mountaintop we read of today, Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah who appear together with him in splendour… as bright as a flash of lightening. The flash of light no doubt wakes the disciples who quickly realise how good this moment is. Moses, Elijah and the Messiah – it doesn’t get much better than that, and, seeing them start to go, Peter wants to freeze time and stay on top of the mountain forever “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
Yet Jesus had already been talking about coming down off the mountaintop. Verse 31 tells us:
“They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem.”
The word used for departure is ἔξοδον, as in exodus.
Just as Moses has led the first exodus and brought the people of God to safety, into a new land, and into a new relationship with God, here on this mountaintop Moses and Elijah are talking with Jesus about his exodus… in which he will lead people out of slavery to sin and into the new creation that God has in store for his people.
But Jesus couldn’t stay on top of the mountain to do it. If Peter’s idea of hanging on to this mountaintop moment came to fruition the plan of God would not.
Jesus didn’t hang on to this amazing mountaintop experience either. Rather, he embrace the journey down the other side, look the difficulty in the face, walked through the valley of the shadow of death, approached the agony with determination and found himself not on a mountaintop showered in glory but on a hilltop suffering in crucifixion shame. Yet Jesus endured it all for the greater moutaintop – the true Zion, the coming of the kingdom of God.
Peter saw the mountaintop the way that we often do – cherished above all! Yet God didn’t use the mountaintop experience to reveal the fullness of his glory – quite the opposite. Before Peter had finished speaking on that mountaintop
a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” (Luke 9:34-35)
This is my Son whom I have chosen; listen to him.
Good words for us to hear when we want to cling to the mountaintops also! Lots of God’s best work is done in the daily grind and struggles and weaknesses when we listen to his Son and do what he says.