“I’ve been to the mountaintop!“
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!” (MLK, April. 23rd, 1968)
Martin Luther King was ready.
One day after Martin Luther King gave his famous Mountaintop speech he was assassinated. Over a year before, Dr. King was quoted,
“Before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling and it still remains my greatest commitment.” (1967)
From his words, Dr. King was clearly ready to see his Lord and Saviour. He was ready.
Which mountaintop is Christ calling us to climb? Are we ready for the journey? Despite the fear and anxiety, is the view from the mountaintop worth it? Are we ready for the experience He’s prepared for us?
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 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.
Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
The Mountaintop Ascent: (Mt. 17:1)
This chapter begins with the words, “After six days…” For context, it’s always important to remember that Matthew’s Gospel wasn’t originally written in chapters and verses.
Therefore, this event is happening six days from the previous event, for us recorded at the end of Matthew 16.
From last week, we know that Jesus and His disciples were in Caesarea Philippi. In the last recorded conversation, Jesus was explaining to the disciples that they must deny themselves in order to truly follow Him.
“…a high mountain…”
Back to verse one, but for moment let’s skip over the who and focus on the where. We read that they ascended “a high mountain.”
Though Matthew doesn’t directly indicate which mountain, historic evidence gives theologians some sign that it was likely Mt. Tabor, located just below Galilee. Scholars give a few reasons for this conclusion:
- First, we consider where Jesus and His disciples were six days earlier in chapter 16, which was the region of Caesarea Philippi.
- Second, we consider how far they could have walked on six-day travel route.
- Third, we consider that in chapter 17, verse 22 they enter Galilee region.
- Fourth, we consider that in verse 24 they reach Capernaum.
- Lastly, we consider the reference to “a high mountain” on that travel route.
The conclusion is Mt. Tabor just southwest of the Sea of Galilee. Again, this may be a guess of sorts, but it is an educated guess.
“…Peter, James and John…”
Let’s jump back to the who of this account. The question that comes up immediately is, “Why did Jesus only bring Peter, James and John?” As with the location, there is a lot of scholarly debate.
An important note to begin with is that these three disciples were chosen before, in Mark 5:37, when he raised the synagogue leader’s daughter from the dead.
What about the specifics on these three?
- First, scholars believe Peter was chosen because of his leadership qualities and Christ’s future plans for him in particular.
- Second, scholars believe John was chosen because of his close friendship with Jesus, calling himself “the one whom Jesus loved” and “the beloved disciple” in John’s Gospel.
- Lastly, the choice of James seems to have a bit more mystery. James was John’s brother, and Jesus referred to these two brothers as the “sons of thunder” in Mark 3:17.
Another important text comes in Matthew 20:20-24.
In this passage, James and John’s mother asks Jesus if her two sons could sit on His right and left. Jesus challenges the two brothers, by asking them if they can “drink the cup” He would have to drink, speaking of His death.
The two brothers reply, simply with “We can.” A last note on James is that he was the first Apostle to be martyred for following Christ in Acts 12:2.
Of course, these statements may be speculative.
Yet, for many theologians and for us, these passages and key points make sense. And maybe it doesn’t really matter anyway?
Regardless of one’s position, the Gospel records do seem to indicate that these three guys were important to Jesus. For some reason, these three were marked as disciples who were brought into the very special inner-circle.
Join the Conversation, Leave Your Thoughts
Why do you think Jesus only took Peter, James and John up the mountain for his transfiguration?