2Six days later Jesus took Peter and James and John and brought them to a high mountain apart from the rest, and his appearance was changed in front of them. 3And his clothes became sparkling white, much whiter than any bleach on earth could make them. 4And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and the two of them were talking with Jesus. 5And Peter responded by saying to Jesus, “Rabbi! This is a good place to be! Let’s make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He said this because he didn’t know what he was saying, because they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and there was a voice that came from the cloud: “This is my beloved son, listen to him!” 8And immediately after that they didn’t see anything, except Jesus himself with them. — Mark 9:2-8 [emphasis mine]
Today’s message on the Bible Pacesetter podcast is from Mark 9 2-8, the story of the transfiguration. I’ve underlined the key phrase in that passage. Peter sees Jesus transfigured. He knows he’s encountering the manifest presence of God, and he immediately decides he’s in a good place and makes plans to stay there. But Jesus isn’t on the same program. He’s planning to leave.
Now it’s interesting that this comes right after Jesus has been telling the disciples about the cross (8:27-9:1). Jesus has explained that there’s a path that he must walk to go to glory, and that path goes through extreme suffering and an unjust death. Those who want to follow Jesus need to be prepared for the same thing. “Take up your cross” (8:34) was not a theoretical sort of thing. We talk about taking up our crosses when we have to teach an extra Sunday School class, preach an extra sermon, work an extra day, or hear someone ridicule us for being Christians. But for the disciples, “taking up one’s cross” meant one thing–death. And the death it meant was likely the worst possible.
So up the mountain they go and there is the glory of God. This is good stuff. This is where we’re going. Why take any more detours, go through any more suffering, or spend any more time walking around Galilee proclaiming? We’ve got it!
That’s pretty much the way we think about wonderful spiritual experiences. Why can’t we stay right there? This is good stuff! What can be wrong with wanting more and more and more of it?
Well, there’s nothing wrong with wanting more. That’s why God gives us tastes of his presence and his glory. He is showing us that there is something to want, something to look forward to and to work for. So why not pitch three tents (notice Peter even forgot one for himself)?
There are two big problems. First, we’d be pitching our tents at the place we got a taste, not at the actual meal. No matter how exciting that retreat was, no matter how wonderful the time of worship, no matter how overwhelming God’s presence was in your church, that is not all there is. Idolatry has been defined as giving the worship due to God to anything less than God. God gives you a taste of his presence so that you’ll want the real thing. Second, there’s a world out there that needs to hear. Peter not only forgot about a tent for himself, he forgot about one for the other two disciples who were there, and he completely forgot all the rest of the 12, and then the whole crowd. They need God’s touch as well.
13In faith these all died, not having received the promises, but they saw and reached out to them from afar, and they confessed that they were strangers and wanderers on the earth, 14for those who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. — Hebrews 11:13-14
No matter how well we may do in this life, this is not our home. No matter how close we may feel to God here, this is not our home. No matter what we may think or do, this is not our home. God’s faithful heroes as recorded in Hebrews 11 were folks who knew that this was not where they were to stop. They were going on to a better country.
We are going on to a better country, to the rest that God has for us, to the very presence of God for eternity. Don’t be satisfied with anything less, for yourself, or for others.