A Mountain Top Experience
February 11, 2018
Pastor Paul R. O’Neil
In today’s gospel text, the Apostles Peter, James and John had the most amazing mountain top experience; Jesus was transfigured before their very eyes. As a result, it forever defined who they were, and they were never the same.
When we truly experience the Lord in our hearts, it can be like a mountain top experience which will keep us going as we face those valleys of life that come our way. My text is Mark 9:2-9.
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus. 9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
This is the Word of God. Thanks be to God.
On Monday Feb 19, I will be taking a 9 day sabbatical trip to the Holy Land with Bishop Devadhar and other clergy. While Janet and I have been there before, it seems to have a magnetic effect on me, and I will return once again. Janet prefers to stay home this time.
On a previous trip our tour visited the 1900 foot Mt Tabor, which was the scene of the Transfiguration. I vividly remember our tour bus slowly winding its way around the mountain. Once we got to top, we could see the bluish/green Sea of Galilee, the long windy Jordan River, thousands of olive trees that dotted the landscape. The same view that Jesus saw.
And it was here on this very mountain, our Lord’s appearance changed. His face shone like the brightness of the noonday sun. His clothes reflected the brilliance of the white light. Also present were two other celestial visitors: Moses, who represented the Old Testament law, and Elijah, who represented the prophets.
Even today, as we live in this postmodern and secular world filled with skepticism, the story of the Transfiguration is one that confirms my belief in the Lord Jesus.
The Transfiguration is like a movie entitled “Life after Life.” None of us will ever have an encounter exactly like this, but the next best thing is to experience the Lord in our hearts and see him through the eyes of faith.
Like I mentioned before, the promise of heaven gets us through the valleys. On Friday, February 2, Merilee Thomas died, and it is the promise of heaven and eternal life that is keeps her husband Harry hopeful that he will see his wife once again. Those who have gone through medical issues and suffering, those hard times will be a distant memory once we reach the other side.
One of the well-known painters of the French Impressionist School was a man named August Renoir. As his health began to fail, Renoir was housebound for the final ten years of his life. His good friend and fellow artist, Henry Matisse, would visit daily. Although Renoir was almost crippled with painful arthritis, he continued to paint. His friend saw the struggle said, “August, why do you continue to paint when you are in such agony?” With Renoir’s eyes fixed on the canvass, he said, “The beauty remains, the pain passes.”
Renoir’s statement reminds me of the scripture passage, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard the wonderful things God has prepared for his children.”
In the Transfiguration, we are assured there is much more in the beyond waiting for us. But to keep that hope fresh, we need that mountain top experience of Christ fresh in our hearts. Periodically read about it so that our spiritual lives do not become stagnant. With the Transfiguration as a reality in our lives, our perspective changes; the fog is lifted and we see more clearly.
The Serendipity Bible has a series of questions that I would like us to consider:
- When was your most recent mountain top experience? A. Years ago. B. Quite recently. C. Right now. D. It hasn’t happened yet.
- What helps you feel close to God? A. Nature. B. Music. C. Being Alone With Christ. D. Real Christian Fellowship. E. The Lord’s Supper. F. Remembering His Love for Me.
- How do you feel when you are on top? A. Like being awed. B. Like the other shoe is about to drop. C. Like nothing else matters. D. Like conquering the World. E. Like staying forever.
- How would you describe your relationship with God now? A. On a mountain top. B. Down off the mountain. C. In the valley. D. In a quandary. E. In the desert. F. In the mid climb.
In my life I have had what I would call spiritual mountain top experiences, but today I still need those times of worship in order to feel refreshed and renewed.
Let me close. Using a movie term, the Transfiguration is a sneak preview of better things to come. In the meantime, let us keep our spiritual lives refreshed. As we enter the other side, we will be ready for the good things that God has prepared for us.