As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
As the old saying goes, what goes up must come down.
This isn’t just true of Jesus and the disciples at the transfiguration. It’s true for all of us. Which is hard. Because mountain top experiences are so incredible. The are a respite from all that is ordinary and arduous and can bring healing, renewal, and insight.
No doubt the disciples would have preferred lingering on the mountain top, if even for a little while longer, basking in the reflected glory of their Lord, Moses, and Elijah. And Jesus! – Goodness, but I have no doubt that it was tempting to remain atop the mountain, revealed in glory and splendor, rather then trek back down the mountain to the mundane and mortal.
But he does. And in case we wonder why, it becomes clear in this one single, arresting verse: “he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”
We’ve talked a bit before about Jesus’ desire to keep silent about his glory, perhaps for fear that displays of power and glory are too easily confused. He has power, but it is the power of sacrificial love. But in that same sentence we are oriented back to the nature of his mission because, when you think about it, resurrection doesn’t make much sense apart from death.
Jesus comes down the mountain, in other words, to die.
But through that death comes life, new life, life that is not limited or bound by death or the fear of death; life that is qualitatively different from that which we are born to; life, in other words, in all of its God-given abundance.
There’s something deeply true here for those who follow the crucified Messiah. We often seek our solace and heart’s content in the mountains, the lofty places of glory and power. Yet God calls us back to the ordinary, to the mundane, to the places of brokenness and vulnerability and death. Why? Because that is where we meet God and discover a life that is not just more of the same, not even just the best of what we’ve known, but rather life in all if its God-given abundance. New life. Resurrected life.
Mountain top experiences are wonderful. But sooner or later we, too, must trek back down into the valley. And that’s hard, both because of what we’re leaving and because of what we fear to meet in the valley, including especially suffering and death. But we go knowing that Jesus has gone there ahead of us and that he will see us through all that comes, even death, that we might discover with him and in him life in all its God-given abundance.
Prayer: Dear God, remind us of your promise to be with us in all circumstances, and encourage us to accompany those around us who are currently walking in the valley of the shadow of death. In Jesus’ name, Amen.