Peaks and Valleys – February 17, 2023
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.
Devotion based on Mark 9:2
See series: Military Devotions
We like the peaks in our lives. We dread the valleys.
We enjoy the times when we feel on top of the world. Good things are happening. We see things clearly. The future looks bright.
The valleys of our lives hold shadows of sad things—failures, doubts, and even death.
Between the peaks and valleys of life lies a road bordered by everyday sights that leave us uninspired. The movie Groundhog Day reflects such state of mind. We look for change. We hope the top-of-the-mountain experience will return. We become discouraged when it does not.
The three disciples Jesus took with him up a high mountain experienced an unforgettable event. James did not live long after it happened but Peter and John both refer to it later in life.
John wrote, “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). Peter insisted, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
Never before or after on earth did they reach this pinnacle of experience. At the baptism of Jesus, the Triune God revealed himself in the form of a dove and the voice from heaven. But Jesus stayed in his form of a regular human.
Not this time.
Matthew reports, “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2).
Mark adds more amazing details, “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus” (Mark 9:3,4).
What? Elijah and Moses had left this life centuries earlier. God, himself, had buried Moses on another mountain top, outside of the land of Canaan. That corpse had long ago turned to dust. How could they now appear to the disciples—not as ghosts, not as in a dream, but as living, talking, people?
How could this be unless there is life after death? Unless humans can share in the glory of their sovereign God?
It’s all true, just as Scripture has been telling us.
But wait, there’s more! “Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).
So, Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary and stepson of Joseph, descendant of Abraham, Judah, and the Moabitess, Ruth is also the Son of God!
Those disciples were overcome with wonder. They didn’t know what to do next. It must have been hard to wait until they could tell the rest of the disciples!
No. Not yet. Not a word of this was to be spoken until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So, they were left wondering what “rising from the dead” meant.
They would learn. This peak experience in their lives would lead to a very dark valley. Deep grief would grip their hearts. Peter’s faith would stumble and fall. People would later sing, “O sorrow dread, God’s Son is dead.”
But that road, the way of sorrows, would lead them through the valley unto heights of joy and glory they could not have imagined.
Their eyes would see the resurrected Jesus. Their ears would hear his command to go to all nations to proclaim the victory over sin and death. They would watch as, from another mountaintop, this same Jesus would rise into the air to return to his heavenly home.
And, when the light of earthly life had left their eyes, they would see him anew—along with Moses and Elijah and all the rest of the heirs of salvation.
And us? What about us?
We still live with the peaks and valleys of earthly life. Our feet are still anchored in time. But our day will come.
We will be carried to a place higher than any mountain top. We will see the glory of God with our own eyes.
And the valley of sorrow and death will be left far behind—never to be seen again.
Old Testament Job was right when he said:
“And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:26,27)
How my heart yearns within me.
Prayer: Lord of glory, who has bought us with your lifeblood as the price, lift our eyes to the heavens as we await our transport home. Amen.
Points to ponder:
- Why did Jesus take only three of his disciples to see his transfiguration?
- Why did Jesus show his blazing glory to humans just this one time?
- What does the transfiguration of Jesus mean to us today?
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Stillwater, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.