Have you ever wondered if Jesus was an outdoorsman? I think he must have been to gain the respect of a bunch of fishermen. He walked from place to place and lived on the move during his three-year ministry. He sometimes didn’t even have a place to lay his head. Jesus loved to find solitude in the wilderness. Yeah, I believe Jesus must have been at home in the great outdoors.
Thinking about this led me to consider what I like and dislike about camping. I love getting away from everything, especially technology. I really like all the varied landscapes and outdoor activities. There is something just soul filling to stare into a camp fire. So, what don’t I like about camping? That’s easy — the difficulty cleaning up after cooking, not taking a shower for days and having to leave at the end of the trip. I always want to stay a little bit longer. But sometimes, you just have to go back down the mountain to reality.
While Scripture doesn’t tell us if Jesus ever enjoyed a smore, we know that he once took his three closest disciples to a high mountain to experience something that they would never forget. This story in Mark 9:2-10 is a first for the disciples. This moment cracked the divide between heaven and earth, revealing just how amazing Jesus truly was.
Mark 9:2-10 (NIV) — The Transfiguration
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 covered 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. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
Sometimes Jesus has to takes us away from the crowd to get our attention. He knows that we need to get away and unplug. These three disciples had no idea what the Lord had in store for them.
Suddenly, Jesus was transformed before their eyes. The disciples got a glimpse of Christ in some of his true glory. Jesus became what he always was. His clothes became a dazzling white suggesting his purity. And as if this wardrobe change was not enough, suddenly Elijah and Moses show up and start talking with Jesus. These are two of the most important figures in Jewish history. Moses represented the Law, and Elijah was one of the foremost prophets from the Hebrew Scriptures. I have always wanted to know what they talked about. But the Bible doesn’t tell us. These little missing details always bug me, but they also create a sense of wonder and mystery.
The three disciples must have been stunned, amazed and frightened. Then, Peter said (Chaille translation), “This is amazing, let’s stay right here. We can pitch three tents — one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Let’s just camp in this moment for a while.”
Maybe Peter said this because he wanted to mark this unbelievable situation and create a memorial to it. Maybe he was scared and didn’t know what to do, and he wanted to create some privacy and protection for this unique encounter. Maybe he just wanted to make this amazing interaction last forever.
The whole situation got more intense when a cloud covered them and suddenly a voice from the cloud identified who Jesus was and his relationship with God the Father. Secondly, the voice instructed the disciples to follow what Jesus instructed. Without any time to debrief or discuss what happened, you see the disciples quickly coming down the mountain.
That was the last thing they probably wanted to do. I can just see them asking, “Where did Moses and Elijah go? Can’t we just stay here a little while longer? Why do we have to go down the mountain?” Even if they didn’t say those things, that would have been what I would have thought and maybe had the courage to say.
I believe that Peter wanted to camp out in this moment. It was the kind of thing that was so unreal that you would want it to last forever. But Jesus knew something that Peter did not realize at the time. The crowds were waiting at the moment. Jesus’ mission was going to be fulfilled down there not up here.
Sometimes we can be transformed and inspired on the mountain. But we can’t fulfill God’s mission until we come down the mountain.
The mountain experience is meant to sustain and inspire us when all those people and situations down there become too difficult to handle. The mountain may seem like a safe place, but it can be perilous to stay up on the mountain when a storm comes.
Take note that Jesus did not turn this miraculous encounter into a self-promotion vehicle. Quite the opposite, he told the disciples not to tell anyone until after his resurrection. Even this command, was a head scratcher. The disciples didn’t know what Jesus meant by rising from the dead.
The two lessons that I see here is that sometimes what we experience with the Lord is just for us. We aren’t intended to share it with others until the time is right. We need to just marinate on it ourselves and let the experience transform and fuel our lives. Secondly, we may not always understand in the moment what Jesus said and did. Our job is to trust and obey not to fully grasp the entire plan. For those who like to be in control and know what is going on, this reality can be a huge challenge. But just as this episode with the disciples demonstrates, many times we aren’t in control. We just need to let God be God. We need to embrace the unexpected.
That is all part of moving on from transfiguration or God moments so that we can embrace our primary mission. The people we need to impact aren’t usually found on the mountain tops. They live in the valley and on the hills. We find them in our everyday routines and lives. As great as it is go camping, we can’t live forever high atop the mountains. We have to return to “normal” life and that is where we can have the greatest impact if we don’t lose sight of what we discovered on top of the mountain. Think about those moments as fuel for what awaits you down the mountain.
Consider this question, “Why do you need to come down the mountain?