Jesus took his inner circle (James, John and Peter) up to the mountain, but they had no idea what they were about to experience up there. Before their eyes, the human form of God was transformed into all of His glory - blinding radiance shone and they were in complete awe (Matthew 17:1-5). Jesus was joined by Moses and Elijah in this most amazing mountaintop experience. The disciples were swept away by the experience of God's glory and the revelation of Jesus' part in Israel's history. They were enlightened and overjoyed by God's presence to the point of assuming this was the peak of Jesus' life. Peter saw Jesus in all His glory and he wanted to stay there in that place forever and he suggested that they build shelters so this glorious moment could last forever.
But it was not meant to be. The apex of Jesus' ministry was not on that mount; it was on another mountain altogether - Calvary. He could not conquer sin and death if He remained on the mount of transfiguration. Jesus knew this fact that defines all disciples: life is found in death. Jesus' life is best expressed in us not in the glorious moments of worship but in the daily death to self that ordinary life requires.
"We are not built for the mountains and the dawns and aesthetic affinities; those are for moments of inspiration, that is all. We are built for the valley, for the ordinary stuff we are in, and that is were we have to prove our mettle." Oswald Chambers
If we read back to Matthew 16, we see that the transfiguration followed Peter's confession of faith and Jesus' description of discipleship as the cross-life. The mountain experience was important and valuable in that it provided a clear vision of Christ. The same is true for us - we need those moments as beacons in the dark night. But nothing is accomplished up on that mountain. Jesus wants us to be about His work and that cannot happen on the mountain because the demon possessed are in the valley and as His disciples, we must follow Him there.
Oswald Chambers often speaks of these mountain experiences and our eagerness to seek the mountaintop. The trouble is, we've made our experiences into an idol. We're not seeking God or following Him (because He just might lead us down difficult roads); instead we're seeking a feeling like desperate addicts.
Our culture is obsessed with what feels good; this is the criterion by which all pursuits are judged and even Christians have fallen prey to this mentality. Unfortunately, the Lord doesn't offer peace or enlightenment when we seek peace. Rather, He offers joy and contentment to those who seek HIM (Matthew 6:33). We need to stop looking for the mountains and start putting our gaze higher - let's start seeking Him in the everyday moments and in every detail of our simple lives. Instead of looking for the next high, I must learn to live obediently in the relative lows of today. My faith will be shown for what it is down here in the valleys by my life of obedience regardless of how I feel. Am I willing today to go to the Mount of Calvary with Jesus?
For more thoughts on Oswald Chamber's quote, visit Laurel.