So many of us have been there. We’ve gone to a camp, a conference or a ministry trip and have really met Jesus in a profound way, then we come back. To reality. And honestly it can be kind of discouraging (to those other than Jesus). And here in this text we find Jesus’ own confrontation of mountain meets valley.
It’s one of the pinnacles of his earthly existence–the Transfiguration. Jesus told his disciples a week before that “some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God. About eight days after Jesus said this, he gook Peter, John and James with him and went onto a mountain to pray”(Lk 9:27-28). While they were praying, Jesus was transfigured to become more like his heavenly self. Moses of the Law and Elijah of the Prophets came to join him and spoke with him about his soon departure. It was so glorious that the only thing Peter wanted to do was stay there so he so he suggested that they build shelters. The transfiguration was glorious. Encouraging. And powerful. But the over-zealousness of Peter was a good clue that reality was not too far away.
After the transfiguration Jesus comes down the mountain and meets a bunch of disciples who are unable to cast out demons.
“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?” (v. 41)
These are not words you would expect from your Sunday School kind of Jesus.
After that we read that Jesus tells his disciples he’s going to be betrayed. They didn’t understand. On top of that they were afraid to ask him about it.
Next up in the reality revelation we see the disciples arguing about who is the greatest. Jesus had just had a taste of heaven and now he’s being asked to mediate between arrogant and selfish disciples? What is up?!
Then the disciples try to stop a man from casting out demons in the name of Jesus. “He is not one of us” says John. As if the disciples had a special corner market on God. “Do not stop him,” Jesus says.
But the problems continue: the outcast Samaritans didn’t want to receive Jesus (ouch!) and the judgment and critical brothers of James and John want to call down fire from heaven to exterminate them. Jesus had to rebuke the brothers yet again.
Put it all together and you have incompetent, arguing, judgmental disciples and don’t even come close to getting a clear picture of who He is that He just personally experienced not too long previous. Talk about a reality check! Jesus goes from glory to gritting teeth in a very short time. But while he rebukes the disciples it never diminishes the reality of who he was and what had happened. And I think that this is a good take-away from the text. We tend to discredit our experiences of meeting God in the glorious places because the valley is so…valley-ish. But they are real experiences and Jesus has met us in real ways. We just need to continue to carry those things he deposited in us on the mountain-top into the valley. And in time we will see the purposes of those mountain-top experiences. After all, they are of God.