We often speak of the outstanding events of our lives as mountain top experiences. We want these experiences to last for ever, and this is understandable. They often are full of joy and exhilaration.
Often worship lifts us to these heights. We are in the presence of God, and of like minded a d purposed people. God is in the house, and we explicably want to retain this taste of heaven.
It is interesting therefore that in scripture we find that such mountain top moments are not opportunities to stay put, but clarion calls to move on.
In Exodus 19:20, the “Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain.” He then called Moses to climb the mountain engulfed in cloud and smoke, and the sounds of thunder and trumpets. Moses was called into God’s very presence! “Then Moses went up on the mountain, which was covered with a cloud. The shining-greatness of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai. And the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day He called to Moses from the cloud. To the people of Israel, the shining-greatness of the Lord looked like a fire that destroys on the mountain top. Moses went into the cloud as he went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights (24:1-18).” Yet, he was not called there to remain, but rather to receive a mission. Moses is given God’s commandments, then sent back to lead the people.
Similarly in Matthew 17 we find another mountain top moment,
“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead (vs 1-9).” [italics mine]
The three disciples are accompanying Jesus on a mountain top. There they come into the presence of the great men of faith Moses and Elijah. The experience is electrifying for them. Peter in his zeal wants to make the experience last. Let’s build shelters her for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. In a sense he is saying, “Lord, this is great let’s just stay.” But then mission comes into play again. The voice of the Father interrupts Peter’s planning. And as a bright cloud falls on the mountain, God’s word, again as at His baptism, affirms Jesus’ identity. But what’s more the disciples are given a direct command from the Father – “Listen to Him.” And what are they told? “Get up,” and then led down the mountain. There was work still to be done.
Should we then shun the mountain top moments? Absolutely not. They are tastes of things to come for us. They empower and enrich us. But, they are not the do all and end all of our walk. Once energised we too have a mission (one incidentally given on a mountain top): “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).” This is a mission difficult to complete if we build shelters on the mountain top. We need to go beyond our church doors, and into all the world to help lead others upwards!