Recently, I’ve been reading through the gospel of Mark. The other day, I came to Mark 9 and the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. You can read it here if you’re not familiar with it. I absolutely love how you can read a familiar passage over and over again, and still find something new in it each and every time. There is a reason why the Bible is called the Living Word.
So, as I read through the passage this time, there were a few different things that jumped off the pages at me. And none of them were about what takes place on the mountainside, which is usually where we all tend to focus our attention when reading this story. As Jesus, and the three disciples that are considered to be Jesus’ inner-circle, Peter, James, and John, come down the mountain, they are met with a commotion.
A crowd had gathered, and since Jesus was up on the mountain, the crowd was asking His disciples to heal their sick. There was a man that brought his son who was possessed by a spirit, and Jesus’ disciples were unable to heal the boy. When I’ve read this in the past, I always wondered why the disciples were not able to perform this healing. They had been given the ability to heal earlier in Jesus’ ministry, but they couldn’t successfully handle this situation.
Jesus’ response in verse 19, which reads, “‘You unbelieving generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”’ was something I thought was directed at His disciples.
But when I read through the passage this time, I realized that it’s actually directed at the crowd, and those that didn’t believe Jesus was who He said He was. After healing the boy, and when they were away from the crowd, Jesus tells the disciples that this spirit could only be driven out by prayer.
So while the disciples were not able to heal the boy, it may have actually been because those around the situation didn’t believe that they could do it, not because the disciples didn’t have the ability or the faith to drive out the spirit.
The other things that jumped out of the text at me this time was a parallel that I see from the life of Moses, and a lesson we can learn from it. There is a time when Moses is up on the mountainside as well, getting the Ten Commandments from God (you can read that story here). He’s gone for a long time, and the Israelites get restless waiting on him. In fact, they fear that Moses has been killed by being that close to God. They turn to Moses’ brother Aaron and convince him to make them a golden calf to worship since they didn’t think Moses was coming back.
When Moses comes down the mountain, he finds the community of the Israelites in a commotion, worshiping a golden idol instead of worshiping God, who had just brought them out of slavery in Egypt. And he doesn’t react to well to the situation. He breaks the tablets that have the Ten Commandments on them, and eventually has to carve them again himself.
But here we have Moses and Jesus, both on a mountainside for an extended period of time. And when they come down the mountain, they walk into a commotion of unbelief. I love seeing parallels like that in the over-arching story of the Bible. But more than that, I love it even more when I can relate to and learn from those moments as well. And there is a big lesson we can learn from these parallels.
Jesus and Moses had been isolated on a mountainside in the presence of God. Jesus had three of His disciples with Him, and was visited by Moses and Elijah, while Moses was alone with God, but both were definitely times spent with God with no distractions from the world. Think about times when we feel closest with God. Times that we get to spend with God without much distraction from the world. Whether it be just times that we are just able to really focus on our relationship with God, times that we get out of our normal routine at a retreat, camp, conference, or mission trip, or however we are getting closer to God. Unfortunately those moments don’t last forever.
There is an ebb and flow to life. And we don’t always get to stay on the mountain top. It would be great if we could, but life gets in the way. When Moses and Jesus were on the mountainside, they had to physically come down. And when they did, life and commotion was waiting for them. When we have those mountain top experiences, those times that we are closest to God, it is not going to last. Not because we don’t want it too, but because attacks always come when we are closest to God.
In other words, when we are experiencing those mountain top times with God, we should know that eventually the valleys are going to come. We know this. We’ve experienced it time and time again, especially if we have been Christ followers for any length of time. But it is encouraging to actually see Jesus has experienced this Himself. And how He handled the situation should give us a clue how to handle it ourselves as well.
He grieved the unbelief and the pain that the valley brought. But He didn’t let it stop Him. All to often, when we come off the mountain and experience the valley, it can knock us for a loop. It can completely stall our relationship with God. We get depressed or we focus too much on the valley. In other words, we react like Moses and break the tablets. Jesus didn’t let it knock Him off His path. He healed the boy through His reliance on God.
We need to realize something. Even when we are in the valley, we can still focus on our relationship with God. We can either focus on everything that is going wrong, and let the junk of this world get us down even more, or we can continue to focus on God. It’s up to you. God is always there. He wants to meet with us. But do we make the time for Him, especially when it is hard to do so? When we are in the middle of a mountain top experience, it’s easy to focus on God. But when we come down from that, and life starts to get in the way again, what do we do?
For far too long in my own life, more than I would actually like to admit, my default was to just roll over and let life get in the way of my time with God. But that’s not what I want. And I have worked long and hard in my life not to let that happen anymore. What about you? Join me in focusing on God, in the good and the bad times.