Fifth Sunday in Lent
2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. — Mark 9:2-8
Mountaintop experiences in life are few and far between, are they not? This is especially true if we aren’t actually climbers! For the rest of life, though, we still liken any kind of once-in-a-lifetime pleasurable experience to reaching the apex of a mountain. What is it about being atop a mountain that evokes this kind of response in us? Perhaps it is just having expended so much energy that just making it to the top is amazing. Or the expansive beautiful scenery that goes for as far as the eye can see. Maybe it is just the perspective of being away from the city and alone with God.
Regardless of the experience, we never want it to end when it is one of those moments that falls into this category. It is one of those rare occurrences in life for which we wish time would simply stop. These times, though fleeting. help us forget everything around us, help us escape the reality in which we live, thus (temporarily) leaving all of our problems, our suffering, our trials, behind. It is as if they don’t exist in those moments.
Consider this mountaintop experience that Peter experiences with Jesus. Is it any wonder that he doesn’t want it to end? Our response would be no different, for we get lured into thinking that life is lived best only there, for all the troubles of earth, all the temptations of life, all the darkness in which we live will all be lifted. What is true is in fact the contrary. Those things are still there; we just are so enthralled with the mountaintop that we forget that life goes on.
Lent allows us opportunity to recognize that even Jesus came down the mountaintop. Yes, He often went away to spend time alone with the Father, but He always returned, knowing that suffering awaited Him. Modeling this for His disciples is what helped them to understand that life lived out in the midst of trial is from where much of our growth comes, for it is only then that we begin to rely upon Jesus.
The mountaintop experiences the Holy Spirit gives us are just that because of what He’s allowed us to experience. Remember how James puts it (in James 1:3-4)? “For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” It is not the moment on top of the mountain that produces what God wants for us but rather the climb up it.