Mountain top or resurrection disciple?

By AL EARLEY

     Have you ever had a mountain top religious experience? These are powerful spiritual times when God seems more real than ever. After you have had a mountain top experience you have a stronger sense of the power of God, and the importance of your faith. If you continue to nurture that stronger faith you will find that you move from a mountain top disciple to a Resurrection disciple. Isn’t that what we all want? Perhaps, but you also may be wondering what a resurrection disciple is.  

     The disciple Peter illustrates today’s point better than any of the other disciples. In Matthew 17:2-3 we have the dramatic description of what happened to Peter, James, and John. We read, “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.” That is a great example of a mountain top experience. Peter was so overwhelmed he didn’t want to leave, and volunteered to build shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. It is a common response to want the mountain top experience to last.

     After it was all over I am sure Peter felt like he was ready to do anything Jesus said. Instead, as soon as they get down from the mountain the disciples are failing to cast out a demon. Peter couldn’t help as Jesus healed the boy (Matthew 17:14-21). Numerous times the Gospels tell us that Peter struggled after the mountain top experience, and it would keep getting harder as they were now headed to Jerusalem, and the crucifixion. Jesus would rebuke Peter and the rest of the disciples for trying to keep the children from him (Matthew 19:13-15). When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet Peter wanted his whole body washed, and Jesus had to correct him again (John 13:1-17). When Jesus told the disciples, it was time for him to die, and all the disciples would run away, Peter pledged to follow even to his death (Luke 22:31-34). Instead, he denied Jesus three times (Luke 22:54-62).  

     Peter wouldn’t get it right until after Jesus’ resurrection. In John 21 we read that Jesus forgave Peter all his failures, and commissioned him to feed Jesus’ sheep, that is minister to the people in Jesus’ name (John 21:15). Now everything is different. Peter is no longer looking for a feeling, but answering the call of Christ. He will no longer assert his rights, but will be a servant of all. He will no longer run away from challenges and death, but will face them courageously, even to being crucified upside down because he did not believe he was worthy to die as Jesus died.  

     God gives us a mountain top experience to help us to be strong and courageous when life gets really hard. Peter needed his experience on the mountain top to help him get through all the challenges and failures that would follow. After Jesus’ resurrection Peter was not perfect, but he was much stronger, wiser, and more committed to doing whatever God wanted, whenever God called, however God desired.  That is what Jesus desires all His disciples to desire and experience in our faith journey.  

     Have you ever had a mountain top experience?  What were the positive things you learned from that experience? Did any negative things happen after your mountain top experience (i.e. dissatisfaction with your church, its music, preaching, witness, or new life struggles)? Did you handle them by asking God for help, strength, and wisdom, or did you go searching for the mountain top again, trying to get the “feeling” back?  

     In these weeks leading up to Easter I want to look more deeply into how we can become resurrection disciples. I hope you will want to join me on the journey, and have a faith that is focused on serving Jesus Christ, and not on helping you feel good. 

(To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see, www.lagrangepres.com).