Had any mountaintop experiences recently? By ‘mountaintop’ I mean those encounters with God that can leave us dazed with glory for hours or days, suddenly propel us into a deeper revelation of Who He is or enlarge our prophetic understanding of time and events.
Peter, James and John had a pretty cool mountaintop experience with Jesus. Elijah and Moses, neither of them strangers to mountaintop encounters with God, were there too. After Jesus led the three disciples to the top of a mountain they saw Him transformed as the King of Glory; they witnessed Moses and Elijah in conversation with Him; and they experienced the cloud of glory and the voice of God announcing: ‘This is My Beloved Son, hear Him!’
Hmmm, that’s some five star mountaintop experience in my opinion. Peter must have thought so too because he wanted to build three tabernacles, right there on the pinnacle, where they could go on worshiping Jesus, Moses and Elijah indefinitely. In other words, Peter wanted to stay up there on the mountain. I suspect James and John may have been pretty much into the idea too.
And who can blame them? At the top of the mountain all was as it should be. The King was revealed for who He is. The environment was saturated with God’s glory. The voice of God penetrated their beings. Even a lawgiver and a prophet joined them, up close and personal. And, most importantly, all Jesus recent talk of rejection, suffering and being killed faded like a forgotten bad dream (Mark 8:31-38). Given what had been going on down at ground level, I guess I’d want to stay there on the mountain too.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not mocking mountaintop experiences. I’ve had a handful myself, and would welcome more.
But the truth is those grand mountaintop panoramas are there to give us perspective. The actual living out of our faith takes place down at the foot of the mountain in the in-your-face, nitty gritty events of everyday life. Jesus had led His three disciples up the mountain, but it was also Jesus who just as intentionally led them down again.
There were a lot of typical disciple questions on the descent from that mountaintop, some spoken and some probably unspoken. What did Jesus mean when He spoke of rising from the dead? How did what they had just witnessed fit in with the teachings of the Hebrew scribes? Mountaintop experiences often leave us with more questions than answers.
Inevitably, however, life resumes at the foot of the mountain. There we are all too quickly besieged by the practicalities of daily life crowding in on us with its frantic demanding voices, unfathomable tragedies, and never ending opportunities for doubt and disbelief.
When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. Mark 9:14-15
Here, at the foot of the mountain, await the ever present, never satisfied multitudes. For us the multitudes represent the world around us with its constant demands, attention seeking and distracting busyness.
Then, of course, there are the scribes. The scribes, who were aligned with the Pharisees, were respected as experts in the written law. The scribes, however, had used their influential positions to elevate man-made traditions above the Mosaic Law. In Jesus and His growing band of disciples the scribes found a constant source of irritation, so they took every opportunity to accuse them of law-breaking.
Condemning, accusing religious voices from our past or present are something many Christ followers still wrestle to overcome. Such voices have no place in our journey with Christ. Still they wait for us at the foot of the mountain eager to judge and sentence at any opportunity.
And one of the crowd answered Him, ‘Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.’ Mark 9:17-18
At the centre of this demanding, accusing crowd, are a desperate father and his tormented son. As we look around us the magnitude of human suffering evident can be overwhelming. Like the father waiting for Jesus at the foot of the mountain, we seem helpless to deal with the scale of war, poverty, injustice and human misery manifesting across this weary world. ‘How long has he been like this?’, Jesus asks. ‘From childhood’, the boy’s father tearfully replies (Mark 9:21). So it is with the human condition. How long have we, as a human race, struggled with ourselves and come up with no lasting solution to our suffering? From childhood – from the dawn of humanity’s creation.
Such is life at the foot of the mountain.
But Jesus is not fazed. He is just as much in control of the situation here at ground level as he was on the now distant mountaintop.
When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, ‘Why could we not drive it out?’ Mark 9:28
And finally, there are the disciples and their inadequacy. Why couldn’t we cast it out, they implore Jesus, after He has ministered healing and deliverance to the suffering child. Here, in our foot of the mountain lives, we too wrestle with self-doubt and discouragement. Desperately we fling our mistakes, failures and seeming defeats into the face of God seeking answers. What we have failed to see is the presence of Jesus is our answer.
Jesus didn’t remain on the mountaintop. He had every right to do so. He is the King of Glory. He is the Living Word that created all things. He is Captain of the Host, Redeemer and Son of the Living God.
But He also chose to identify Himself as the Son of Man. And the Son of Man elected to descend from the glory of the mountaintop to be present in the human turmoil going on at the foot of the mountain. Up there on the mountaintop Peter, with his grand plan for tabernacle building, had missed something. The tabernacle of God was Jesus. And the tabernacle of God was finally living and walking among humanity. He still is.
Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God With Us’. (Matt. 1:23)
Welcome to another year at the foot of the mountain. In the world around us chaos runs amuck, injustice mocks and confusion defies order. But Christ chooses to walk among us. God chooses human vessels as His dwelling place. We are not left alone in the darkness. The One who is Life is the (only) Light of humanity.
May the Christ Light increase in you in the coming days. And may your mountaintop experiences with Him be many.
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016 and beyond. All rights reserved. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.