March 2, 2003 – Mountain Top Experiences
Mark 9:2-9, NIV
" After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead."
Life is full of mountain top and valley experiences. We like mountain tops. When you go through the Mountains of British Columbia, for example, you look up to the mountains in awe of the majesty of it all. The air is clean and for some reason you feel so much closer to God. It’s a breath-taking encounter with something greater than ourselves that we cannot explain. And if you come close to the edge and look down, your knees want to give way. Its an awesome and at the same time a fearsome experience.
We like mountain top experiences in our lives – those great, once in a lifetime experiences that cause butterfly sensations in our soul - events that cause us to celebrate and to remember. Would you share with us some examples of mountain top experiences in your life…
A young man and a young woman falling in love…
The day of your wedding…
The birth of a child... or a grandchild…
Finding fulfillment in the job you really wanted…
Become a Christian and making a decision to give your life to Christ and to follow him forever…
These are mountain top experiences. During these moments, it’s easy to be a Christian and to confess that “God is good.” These are times when we really feel the warmth of God’s love and blessing.
But life isn’t one peak after another. Between the mountain peaks there are valleys too. Some deeper than others. The troubles of life. Those difficult moments that we’d rather not experience. What are some of the valley lows that you have experienced in your life?
When someone has been diagnosed with cancer…
When a loved one dies…
When someone you love makes a conscious decision against God and the church…
During these times, it’s more difficult to be a Christian. When you’re in the valley, it’s hard to say, “God is good.” Sometimes when we’re in the valley our faith is shaken. We have doubts that God is blessing us and that he has a bright and glorious future in store for us.
Mountain tops and valleys – they are a part of our lives. Where are you right now? Are you on top of the world shouting for the world to hear that God is good? Or are you in a dark valley crying in hopelessness and despair? Or maybe you’re somewhere in between – maybe there’s a mountain top or a valley for you right around the corner, and you don’t even know it.
The disciples of Jesus had no idea that they were about to enter a valley – they were about to go through a low-point with Christ. Things with Jesus seemed to be going so well – he had performed miracles – walking on the water, feeding the 5000. He had been surrounded by crowds of people who listened to his parables. It was easy to be a disciple of Jesus at that time. There was no doubt that this was the Son of God, the Savior of the world. The disciples were experiencing one high-point after another with Jesus.
But right around the corner loomed the valley of the shadow of death. The crowds would soon turn against Jesus. He’d be betrayed, and arrested, and tortured, and publicly condemned, and executed in the most shameful way known to man at that time. The valley was right around the corner. The disciples would be filled with fear and doubt that Jesus was the Son of God. Soon, it would be very difficult to be a disciple of Christ, and the disciples had no idea.
And so, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on the mountain where they will have an experience of a lifetime. He lets them experience something amazing – with their own eyes, they catch a glimpse of his glory. Right before the valley, Jesus takes them to a mountain, to a high point, and he does this to strengthen them for the difficult road ahead.
Jesus went to the mountain to be transfigured, but came down the mountain to be a saviour. He calls us into a relationship with him, so that we would follow him in obedience. Having been on the mountain with the Lord, our lives are also transformed.
On May 19, 1953 Sir Edmond Hillary had a mountain top experience when he and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, reached the top of Mount Everest. They were the first two people ever who literally were on top of the world. After Hillary had climbed Mount Everest he became an overnight celebrity. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth. His name became a household word. Those of you who enjoy camping will recognize his name on some of your sleeping bags, tents, and other camping gear.
Edmond Hillary could have rested on his success for the rest of his life. But he didn’t! Instead he went back to Nepal. Back to those people, the Sherpas, whom he had grown to know and appreciate and respect and love. Now he was using his fame to bring them help.
In a speech that he gave some years ago, Hillary recounted how an elderly Sherpa from Khumjung village, the hometown of most of the Sherpas on his way to the top of Mount Everest, had come to him a few years after that expedition and said, "Our children lack education. They are not prepared for the future. What we need more than anything is a school in Khumjung."
So Hillary established the Himalayan Trust, and in 1961 a three-room schoolhouse was built in Khumjung with funds raised by Hillary. In its first decade the fund focused on education and health. Since then the trust has built 27 schools, two hospitals and 12 medical clinics, plus numerous bridges and airfields, and also reforestation of valleys and slopes in many areas of Nepal.
He would spent more than half the year traveling the world, raising money for the trust fund and supervising the various projects undertaken with the funds he’s raised. And he has continued doing this for more than thirty years.
Mountain top experiences can transform our lives forever. When we are up on top of the world, breathing high-octane air, feeling the holy touch of God’s fingertip, we may indeed be in the process of being prepared for the troubles in the valley below, or for a special calling that God has for us.
Christ upon the Mountain Peak 232 (v1-2)
Today we go on this journey to the top of the mountain with Jesus and his disciples. And somehow in the back of our minds we know that we eventually have to come down and stand on solid ground.
The experience on the mountain was great – full of symbolism: We were alone with our Lord – sharing with him, listening to his teachings, and praying with him. Then we saw how Jesus changed before our very eyes. His appearance became as bright as the stars. Then there appeared Elijah with Moses – representing the full revelation of God in the Old Testament through the Prophets and the Law. When they disappear, Jesus remains alone – symbolising that he is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.
This experience was so wonderful – who would want to leave a place like this? Not Peter. He was ready to memorialize this event by building three tents, a tabernacle or a shrine, perhaps a temple where the presence of God could be captured and contained for all times. A safe place perhaps that they could return to when things got rough in the valley. OH, don’t we all sometimes have a longing for a place like that?
Just when Peter was beginning to visualize a blueprint for his building project a bright cloud rolls in and the sky opens up with the very voice of God: “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.” Wait a minute. Aren’t these the exact same words that we heard at Jesus’ baptism? “My beloved son”.
As we come into the Season of Lent we will revisit Christ’s Suffering and Death on the cross – the event for which Jesus was being blessed and commissioned and prepared on that mountain top.
Up until now we have seen the power of Christ, whom even the demons obey. We have recognized him without a doubt, as the Son of God and Savior of the World. We have seen Him on top of the world. But in the coming weeks as we journey with him toward the cross we will see another side. We will see God’s self-denying love for us. Jesus will descend into the valley of the shadow of death. He will be rejected. He will suffer and die for the sins of the world – for you and for me. These next six weeks, we are going to walk with Jesus, into that valley, and see the sacrificial love of God for us. This mountain-top experience we heard about today prepares us for the valley ahead.
And it also prepares us for something else – it prepares us for our own personal valley experiences. As we see Jesus glorified here today, we are prepared for our own difficult moments in life. The voice out of the cloud speaks also to you and to me: “This is my beloved son – who gave his life for you on the cross. Listen to Him!” He is worthy of our full attention and obedience.
As we stand upon the mountain tops of our journey through life may we be ever mindful of the reason why God is calling us to this place. In fair wheather and mountain top experiences may we accept the invitation to “listen to His Son.” And when we’re in the valley of life’s most difficult experiences let us never forget, that this is precisely the reason why God led us up to the mountain in the first place. There he has prepared us and equipped us for the work that lies ahead.
When you’re on top of the world soak up the radiance of God’s love, grace and peace for your life. Look at Jesus in faith, take heart for the journey that lies ahead. And, with the disciples, fall on your knees to worship him, for HE alone is worthy! Let us now adore him!
Christ upon the mountain peak 232 (v3-4)