Day 294: Worship on the Mountain, Work in the Valley (Matthew 17)

The Transfiguration, by Carl Bloch (1834-1890)
4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:4-5)

Through the Bible: Matthew 17, Mark 9

In my younger days, I was the camp pastor for a youth summer camp. It was an intense week of focus on Jesus, free from the distractions of home. Church camp is often described as a mountaintop experience for Christians. Week after week, kids would come up to me on the last night of camp and say, “Jesus has never been as real to me as He has been this week. I wish we could stay at camp forever.”

I think Peter might have been feeling these feelings when Jesus took him, James, and John up on the mountain of transfiguration in Matthew 17. Scripture says that Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light (Matthew 17:2). They saw and experienced Jesus as they never had before.

So Peter expressed what thousands of church camp kids have been saying ever since: “This is awesome! Jesus has never been as real to me as He is on this mountain!”

Let’s stay here longer!

Peter started making plans for how they could remain on the mountain. He’s taking measurements for three tents, picking out carpet, and trying to decide where to put the pipe organ, when all of the sudden the voice of God lays him flat, along with James and John:


And with that, we don’t hear anything else about camping out on the mountaintop. Next thing you know, they are heading back down the trail. Notice what is waiting for them at the bottom of the hill:

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” (Matthew 17:14-16)

Listen, beloved: I pray the Lord gives you Sunday after Sunday of awesome worship experiences. I’m a pastor, and my and my worship pastor do our best to plan a service that will help you experience God in an exciting, relevant, and transformational way. I’ve been in services where the Holy Spirit just takes over, and a fifty minute sermon feels like five, and when you sing “Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place,” man–you mean it.

But while God-honoring, authentic, transformational worship experiences are an end in themselves, they are also a means to an end. They are intended to prepare us for the work that is to be done outside the walls of the church. We are to come away from an encounter with God encouraged, enlightened, and empowered for the job he has for us. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the greater the encounter with Jesus on the mountain, the greater the task that awaits you in the valley.

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