Despite his busy schedule in ministry, Jesus would regularly retreat, quieten down, and pray earnestly. This time, He brought with him three disciples—Peter, James and John, to a high mountain to pray. The high mountains are the most ideal places to pray and experience God.
At the mountaintop, Jesus was transfigured before the disciples. Mark tells us, “Jesus’ clothes became radiant, intensely white, and whiter than anyone on earth could bleach them.” This was the eternal God the Son in His glory!
In the Old Testament, God at Mount Sinai appeared in his glory to Moses. Moses could not see God directly. God hid him in the cave and he only saw the back of God. But even this had made the face of Moses radiant. Apparently there is an unsurpassable gap between God and the sinful people. No sinful people can come to God’s presence to witness his glory without being stricken to death.
Following the incident, through Moses, God commanded the Israelites to build a tent or tabernacle. God’s presence would dwell in the tabernacle and through sacrifices offered in the tabernacle; God’s people could come to the presence of God alive.
Now Jesus, on the other mountain, transfigured and appeared in his own glory. This transfiguration affirmed His identity as the eternal God the Son. This was also an anticipation of Jesus’ glorification after His death, resurrection and ascension.
Peter, James and John beheld Jesus’ glory but remained alive, though they were greatly terrified as they were overshadowed by cloud, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”
And there too appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Moses represented the Law while Elijah represented the Prophets. The appearance of these two great representatives of Israel’s tradition next to Jesus showed that his identity is unparalleled.
In Luke’s record, we are told that Elijah and Moses discussed with Jesus concerning His departure (or, exodus), which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. The two luminaries were cheering Jesus on, affirming and encouraging Him to accomplish his God-given mission. Their discussion involved the prophecies of the Law and the Prophets concerning the Messiah, Jesus who would accomplish salvation for all nations through His suffering and death.
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.”
Peter intended to make such glorious, majestic and blessed moments of God’s presence longer and safer through their divine presence dwelling in the tent or tabernacle. But suddenly, Moses and Elijah disappeared. They saw Jesus only. The tent-building project did not materialise.
Theologically Moses and Elijah had to go. They were not supposed to linger in the tents along side with Jesus because their era had passed and now Jesus came and inaugurated a new era of salvation. And Jesus is the only way by which people can go to the Father. He himself is the tabernacle, the Temple and the sacrifice too. Through Jesus, we are able to connect with God and remain alive.
Actually Jesus and the disciples’ mountaintop experience is a “worship” experience; where human have a foretaste of God’s eternal, glorious presence—the Transfiguration, the overshadowing cloud and the affirming voice of God.
Let Us Worship the Lord Unceasingly
Humans always live with sense of insecurity, self-alienation and alienation from other fellow humans, and also with feeling of loneliness and dissatisfaction deep down in soul. People are haunted with all kinds of longing and want to be fulfilled. And Satan deceives us, directing us to things outside God, outside Jesus for satisfying our longings and wants. We think that only by obtaining wealth and health, love and achievements and etc, we will be satisfied.
However, the truth is only by worshipping God, the Holy One will our innermost emptiness be satisfied. Only God’s acceptance and forgiveness of sin will deliver us from guilt, shame and brokenness.
In worship, where we come to dwell in God’s presence, we will have a foretaste of all that our inner being long for, i.e. seeing God’s face, feeling the weight of his glory upon us, hearing God’s voice and entering into his embrace. In worship, we have glimpses of God’s eternal glory, and a foretaste of all his blessings and inheritance which he has placed in store for us in eternity. In worship, we not only believe that God is good and forgiving, but really experience his goodness and acceptance personally.
Today regardless of what circumstances we are in, we ought to constantly encounter God through worship. In this encounter, the Spirit will empower and equip us to face the future challenges in life. We ought to desire this kind of experience. It is like “tonic” to revive and renew us. We gain strength and solidify our faith through these experiences.
Now the question is, “who can experience an authentic worship?”; “What kind of attitude a true worshipper must have in order to enter into worship?”
Feeling Unworthy, Inadequate and Helpless
After the transfiguration, Jesus and His disciples went down from the mountain to meet other fellow disciples. And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And Jesus asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”
And Jesus answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”
And they brought the boy to Jesus. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth, and Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”
And he said, “From childhood, and it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; but help my unbelief!”
And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, never enter him again.”
And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he aroused.
And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Jesus’ prayerful mountaintop experience had equipped Him to accomplish what was recorded in the Books of the Law and the Prophets. He went down to the crowded valley and plains, to fight against the forces of evil; set free those who were oppressed and enchained. He served ceaselessly throughout His entire journey to Jerusalem until He arrived at another mountain, Golgotha, to suffer humiliation and to be crucified on the cross. There he sacrificed His own life for the salvation of the world.
In contrast, the disciples tried to cast out demons but failed because they did not pray enough. They were complacent and over confident of themselves. They did not prepare themselves enough to wage war against evil and suffering.
There was only one person who knew his own inadequacy and helpless state that is the father of the child. He pleaded with Jesus to help his unbelief. And the result is Jesus healed his son.
We don’t need to be fully righteous to come to God. We only need to be remorseful and confess our sin, and acknowledge that we are indeed weak and helpless, and pleading with Jesus to help our unbelief. We can solely rely on this attitude to come to dwell in God’s presence in worship. Then we will be able to have a glimpse and foretaste of God’s eternal glory and his bountiful blessing.
Today we must not be contented with the busy service or the boring and monotonous life of the “plains”. We need to “go up the mountains” to pray and worship God. Today you may only know in your mind that God loves you, but you ought to feel and experience God’s love in worship.
In worship, the Holy Spirit will empower you to experience the sweetness of God’s presence. You will hear God’s voice whispering to you. You will feel that his presence surrounds you with his embrace. Your soul will also be radiant for he has shone on you.
The worship experience will prepare and equip you to take on the challenges of life; to “go down to the valley and plains” to serve the needs of the crowd and take on all other challenges that come our way. We will bring changes to our lives and to the world at large.
Let’s now humble ourselves before God, confess that we are helpless and we need God and not God needs us. Let’s be sure that only by dwelling in the presence of God can all our longings be satisfied. We will experience healing for our brokenness and deliverance from sin.
Now we may stand alone and face various constraints, yet we can still worship God, for he will meet us in worship and grant us the foretaste of his glory and bountiful grace and blessing, and we will then be renewed, able to rise up again to new heights and empowered to move on in the power of Spirit.