I spent a moment on the mountaintop today. I always want it to last longer. But the air is thin up here, there is no level ground for the long haul, and the need is in the valley below. Still I never want to leave the mountain top when I enter into His presence where I am fully blinded by His glory, totally humbled by His love, completely overwhelmed by the reality of my sinfulness and the depth of His forgiveness, speechless in the presence of Him who knows my heart’s every word before it finds its way to my tongue, engulfed in the peace and beauty that are the province of the Creator of the universe, overtaken by inexpressible joy – tears fall freely as I fall face down in worship – only to discover my head is lifted to gaze upon His face. I never want to leave this place. I never want to leave the mountaintop.
I wonder if this is how Peter, James and John felt when Jesus took them up onto the mountain to pray one day? Moses and Elijah showed up unexpectedly and, well this is how the scene was described –
“As He (Jesus) was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. . . . a cloud appeared and enveloped 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 9:29-35)
Pretty life-changing experience for Peter, James and John, right? So what happened next? Well, verse thirty-six says – “When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone.” So things went right back to how they had been and they headed back down the mountain where normal everyday life awaited them. Their mountaintop moment was over, left behind as they entered once again into the mundane of the everyday.
Were the three disciples forever changed by their experience on the mountain? Luke 9:36 tells us, “The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.” How could they? Some things are just too wonderful for mere mortal’s words. They defy description. So the three remained silent. I wonder, as time passed, did they began to doubt the reality of their mountaintop encounter? Were they asking themselves, “Did it really happen? Was I really there?” Did the memory of the transfiguration they witnessed began to fade as earthly cares took precedence each day, until it seemed only a distant recollection -vague and devoid of the power it once possessed?
I think I know how they felt. Mountaintop moments change you forever. But then you come down the mountain and nothing has changed except that you don’t fit in, but you want to find a way to walk in this world without forgetting what the mountaintop taught even as its memory grows dimmer with each passing day. I can learn from Peter’s experience, though. Sometime later, after his mountaintop moment, Peter denied he knew Jesus three times to people who asked him. I am no different. By my actions and words, I often deny the transforming moments I have experienced in the presence of my Savior. And like Peter, I am filled with regret and remorse each time.
However, I take heart in knowing that Jesus forgave Peter and He forgives me too, when I ask. This knowledge gives me the courage to climb the mountain again and again in pursuit of a moment on the mountaintop, knowing I will not get to stay there long but that I will be welcomed in. Hebrews 4:14-16 tells me so,
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. . . . Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
The climb is long, all for just a moment on the mountaintop. And no matter how many moments there have been before – when I come into my Heavenly Father’s presence – my moment on the mountaintop – it is all brand new and like coming home simultaneously. He really is that Holy. I really am that sinful. And like Job I cry out –
“Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. . . . My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:3-6)
in that moment, I know that I am loved without limit or measure, I am loved beyond all reason or explanation – and so are you, dear readers, so are you.
sincerely, Grace Day