In the lead up to these verses the disciples have heard Peter declare his faith in Jesus as the messiah, a momentous event from which they then find themselves reeling at Jesus’ revelation that He would be put to death and rise again, 8:31.
On the heels of that revelation, Jesus called His followers to a life of total commitment to God, to the extent that they would have to lose their lives as well, both spiritually and physically. His words must have come as a shock to their system.
And once more we have to wonder what they must have thought. They had left life as they knew it to go with Jesus. They did so expecting Jesus to destroy the occupiers, deliver Israel and establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Now, Jesus tells them that following Him is a very costly business. There’s not meant to be any negatives to following God surely.
As soon as Jesus tells them that He is going to die, and as soon as He calls them to a life of total surrender; Jesus makes a very strange statement. He tells the assembled multitude that some of their number will actually see the kingdom of God coming in power before they die. He softens the blow of His earlier words with the promise that His followers will enjoy His glory in the future.
Some people have a problem with this verse. Some believe it tells us that Jesus is talking about His second coming. Others believe that Jesus was not talking about His second coming; he was talking about what would come next. That some WILL actually see the kingdom of God on earth. The transfiguration. The Lord took the opportunity to encourage His disheartened and confused disciples.
In this glimpse of God’s glory we can see 4 things that will encourage us today, even the less than positive bits. Those four are The Mountain; The Majesty; The Mistake; and The Movement.
This passage opens with the mention of a mountain. We are not told what mountain it is, but it is believed that it is Mount Hermon. This mountain rises some 9,200 feet above sea level. It is some twelve miles north of Caesarea Philippi, and is near the place Jesus has been ministering. Even in the hottest of months, the top of this high mountain can still be wrapped in snow. Must have been quite a sight for all those around.
When you read scripture it doesn’t take that long to see that Mountains occupy a special place in the Word of God.
It was on a mountain called Moriah that God manifested His grace to Abraham when he willingly offered up his son Isaac, Gen. 22.
It was on Mount Sinai that God handed down His Law to Moses, Ex. 19.
It was on Mount Carmel that God demonstrated His power to Israel through Elijah, 1 Kings 18.
It was on Mount Horeb that God ministered peace to the troubled heart of Elijah, 1 Kings 19.
It was on Mount Calvary that Jesus died for our sins on the cross, John 19.
It was from the Mount of Olives that Jesus ascended back into His heavenly glory, Acts 1:9-11.
It will be that same mountain that will greet His feet when He returns in glory, Zech. 14:4.
And of course we’re all familiar with the phrase “Mountain top experiences” TAKE A WHILE NOW TO BE REMINDED OF THEM.
Mountains occupy a special place in our own lives as well. But here I’m going to annoy and disappoint some when I say the actual mountain bit. The Big rock that you walk up does not excite me, just tires me out thinking about it, but the deep meaningful spiritual event, the “mountain top experience” does represent something that is of meaning for me and for many of us.
This interesting fact seems to be a God given, if at times misinterpreted, part of being human. I did a cursory google search of mountains and apart from google images of mountains, the first few pages were littered with and I paraphrased “Meditate/pray on Sacred Mountain/Peaks” sort of thing. And people do say that the experience of being so high up is profound one. Me, I only can have one word to describe that experience “cold…”
Spiritually God sets aside a few mountain top experiences along the way for all of us. We have our valleys, our hardships, our sufferings, our sicknesses and our problems; however, praise God for the mountain tops of life. I am glad there are a few places along the way where we are allowed to see His glory and His power! I thank God for those times when He has led me on to a “high mountain”.
Every now and then we are blessed with a mountain top experience. We ought to enjoy them for all they are worth! When Jesus and these three came down from the mountain, they ran directly into the devil and his work, 9:14-29. But, those who were with Jesus on the mountain had seen God’s glory and power so could face whatever was thrown at them. They never got over what they experienced on that particular mountain, John – John 1:14; Peter – 2 Pet. 1:16-18. The mountain will help us make it through life when we are bogged down in the valleys.
For the three, they would have held onto this experience throughout their lives. When things were difficult and they had it hard… they could remember what they saw, what they had heard and the blessing that comes when we see God’s glory for ourselves. So remember your own mountain tops and be encouraged that if you are in the valley God is still His glorious self.
We are told that Jesus selected Peter, James and John for this special trip to the top of Mount Hermon. Jesus had twelve disciples, so why just these three?
The answer to that question isn’t an easy one to answer, but it is clear that these three men became the preeminent in the early church. Perhaps they were allowed to witness the events of this day in preparation for the places of leadership they would later occupy and the things they may experience in the years to come.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Jesus singled these men out for a special time of ministry, nor would it be the last time He would do so. The first time Jesus singled these three men out was when Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead, Mark 5:37. He singled them out here. Jesus would also take these men “a little deeper” with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He went to the cross, Mark 14:33. These men were privileged to see things the other disciples never got to witness.
It is important to say now that this isn’t about Jesus loving any other more than the next person. He doesn’t love one of His children any more than any other, but some are simply closer to Him than others are.
That is true and we know it. It can be for many reasons. We may be struggling with life, or circumstances. We may not be able to find a way out of this or that problem. We may be tired, frustrated or even feel guilty, however it is not Jesus’ desire for you not to be as close as you can be to Him and so He implores each and everyone of us to get closer. And what happens when we respond to that call of God to come closer is we will see more of His glory and more of His power than those who stay farther away. And that is important, to direct us away from our fixation on the “these three are special” the “select few” and concentrate on what was an earthly manifestation of God MAJESTY and GLORY which is there for all of us to know.
James makes this point in James 4:8. We are as close to God’s majesty as we desire to be, (8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.) We can experience as much of His glory and His power, His majesty as we desire to experience.
Do you ever wonder why some people seem so full of love for the Lord? Do you ever wonder why some people seem always ready to worship and praise Him? Do we wonder why this or that person seems to radiate Jesus? Do you ever wonder what their secret is? Their secret is no secret at all! Those people have made up their minds to live close to Him. As a result, God has promised to live close to them. The outcome of that is the majestic presence of Jesus shown in their lives.
And in the midst of what these three were to experience in their lives later omn, this mountain top event would have stayed as a pointer and encouragement, in their faith to keep going. The power and majesty of God is something to behold and hold onto. The mountain top helps us with the question “why would Jesus take a rank sinner like me, save me by His grace and then allow me to experience His glory” The simple fact is that I don’t understand fully why we have those glimpses of God’s majesty but it’s not going to stop me from enjoying them!
And that is the movement here. As they leave that mountain, Jesus tells them not to tell what they have seen until He rises again from the dead, They do not understand what He means by this, because they would not grasp the truth of the resurrection until Jesus had actually died and was risen again. Who would at that point. They have already misunderstood what being the messiah meant and in Peter’s case made it a few times. They also have got the importance of the transfiguration messed up and tried to see it as an opportunity to build another, what? temple?.
And Jesus told them to keep this information to themselves because they didn’t understand all the information they needed. They didn’t understand the information they did actually have. And then if they had gone around telling everyone what they had seen and heard up the mountain, they would have confused many and hindered the rest of Christ’s earthly ministry. THEY WOULD and WE DO in this circumstance.
They saw Jesus in His glory and they failed to comprehend the message behind the miracle. THEY WOULD and WE DO in this circumstance.
This and our mountain top experience shows us the majesty of Jesus and that it is a place we find encouragement to continue. It shows us that grace alone can open the door to the things of God! When you come to Jesus by faith, you move into a new world.
This mountain also shows that we will make mistakes. With our attitudes, our fears and our desires but that grace is shown to us at this peak, so we can start again. It doesn’t matter that we are up a mountain and wish to stay there, in the majestic glory of God, we are to travel down as the call is not to stay up those mountains but to use the experiences to move back down again. The movement is not to hold tight to the experience but to share it with others. Not to bathe in the majesty forever but to move out of the comfort zone of building a place to settle and to go out remembering what we have learnt about God and ourselves when we up there.
These three were never perfect but they were also never the same again. And against all the odds and expectations, of probably themselves, as well as others, they came down but their lives were, however, always, always, pointing up.
Inevitably there is a MISTAKE in here and this is also where I get light headed…
The climb to the top of Mount Hermon would have taken the better part of the day. Luke, in his account of this event, tells us that Jesus began to pray when they arrived at the top of the mountain, Luke 9:28-29. Apparently this prayer meeting lasted for a while, because the disciples fell asleep, Luke 9:32. So, the day has probably gone and night has fallen. The peaceful mountain is covered with a sky filled with a canopy of stars.
Suddenly, Jesus changes! His face changes, Luke 9:29. His garments change, v. 3. He is “transfigured”. This word comes from the word “metamorphosis”. It is the same word that is used to describe the changes a caterpillar goes through when it is “transfigured” into a butterfly. In other words, Jesus changed forms on the mountain. The glory that was concealed within Him was revealed on that mountain. And this was not the first time Jesus had experienced a transfiguration. When He was born in Bethlehem, Godtransformed into human likeness and so Jesus concealed the glory of His deity behind the veil of His human body. At Bethlehem the glory was held within, on this occasion, the glory on the inside burst forth to the outside.
The dark mountain was instantly bathed in a light brighter than the sun. Anyone looking up at Mount Hermon that night would have seen the mountain lit with the glory of God. It was a special presentation! Better than any fireworks display.
The first mistake, however, is one the disciples will repeat. Peter, James and John have been asleep. Ah the bane of our lives the boredom or impatience we feel. Although I choose to believe it is our very nature and frailty that we are unable to keep our eyes open. Sleep is required for good health and I guess our inability to keep awake is a good thing in that we must accept that we need God and rely on Him more. Mistakes are not something that forever define us in God’s eyes but are a reminder that we are human and in need of His grace.
We then read that they wake up to find the mountain bathed in supernatural light. Jesus, their leader and friend, was no longer the same man He had been. When they walked up the mountain Jesus had appeared to be an ordinary Jew; now, Jesus was shining brighter than the sun. When they see this, they are terrified, v. 6.
Peter didn’t know what to say, so he just blurted out something. He recommends that they enter into a building program. He suggests that they build three lean-tos, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus. And this is the mistake Peter makes over and over again. He can’t just shush. At college we used to play a trick on a couple of our fellow students. They could not stand silence. They had to fill it. We would make sure that no one said anything, including the lecturer and have a friendly bet on which one of them would break first.
(By the way, there are people who have something to say and people who just have to say something. The first group is worth listening to. The second group will get you into trouble!)
Peter may have been suggesting that they just stay on the mountain, enjoying this amazing moment. Who can blame him for that. It is lovely, peaceful and satisfying to be on that mountain top. A wonderful spiritual experience of basking in the majesty of God.
And sometimes we build on our mountain top. Make it the holy place. The place of God’s glory. This is where God meets His people in His fullness. We then can spend the remainder of our time typing to get there again to recreate it, at the expense of doing what we have actually been called to do and the purpose of seeing God’s glory.
Does that ring a bell? Are we still up the mountain? Have we built a place for God to dwell? A place where Go is only there? Or do we strain and give all our energy to find that mountain top again so we can sit down and not come down again?
It is a mistake to build on the mountain. To want to stay there. It is a great place to be but God’s purpose is greater than that place. It is a place to be propelled from, so that we can take that majesty, glory and power back down with us.