Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Have you ever had a mountain-top experience? The term is rooted in the Bible, because so many of the important people in the Bible experienced the presence of God on a mountain. It was on the mountain top that God spoke to Moses, telling him to warn the people of Israel, newly freed from slavery, about remaining faithful to Him (Ex 19:16-23). It was on the mountain top that God came to Elijah, not in the wind, or in the earthquake, or in the fire, but in the “still small voice” (1 Kgs 19:9-18).
Now, representing the law and the prophets, Moses and Elijah stand with Jesus on the mountain top, where Jesus is transfigured before Peter, James, and John revealing, if only briefly, His divine identity. Like so many who experience the presence of God on the mountain top, Peter wants to hold on to it. He does not want to come down from the mountain. Yes, he is terrified. He is in the presence of God and of God’s revelation through the law and the prophets! Who wouldn’t be? Still, he announces that it is good to be on the mountain top to experience the transfiguration of Jesus, and of Moses and Elijah beside him. He proposes to Jesus that they build three tents, one for each of them, so that they might revere them on the mountain top.
But God, as usual, has other plans. A shadow comes over the apostles, even as they remain on the mountain. A voice comes from the cloud: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Of course! That is the whole point of experiencing God on the mountain – to listen. Remember, to listen is to obey. It was on the mountain that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. It was on the mountain that God instructed Elijah to anoint the new kings of Syria and Israel, and to anoint Elisha as the prophet to succeed him. When we are called to the mountain top and experience the presence of God there, it is not merely for the sake of our experiencing the presence of God. It is to prepare us, to strengthen and encourage us, to listen to His mission for us and act on it.
This is when Jesus tells them to keep the experience to themselves, “except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” They listened. They obeyed. “They kept the matter to themselves.” But, they questioned each other about the meaning of rising from the dead. They would soon enough find out. They would learn that Jesus must suffer and die, and then rise again. They would learn that it would be their mission to preach Jesus crucified and risen to the masses, even to the ends of the world. Do you think they looked back in remembrance of their mountain top experience with the transfigured Jesus, and Moses and Elijah beside Him? How could they not? They would look back and remember and find strength and courage in their experiencing Jesus, if only briefly, in His revealed divinity, and of Him as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.