We are not big campers. We don’t own a tent. We barely have enough cheap store brand sleeping bags to keep warm if we were to camp within our own home. In fact, my children are quick to declare that their father is “Indoorsy.”
That being said, if I were with Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, I would have more than willing to join them in their plea to set up camp and live in tents right there.
After all, they had come off of three years of intense, nomadic ministry training with Jesus. They had ministered to masses of fragmented, frail and fearful people. They were expecting Christ, any day now, to establish the kingdom on earth, to make wrong things right again, to restore Israel to the power and peace it had experienced in its golden days under Kings David and Solomon. Enough with the broken stuff, Jesus. Let’s move into the glory phase.
All three synoptic gospels include the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus on the Mount (see Matthew 17, Mark 9 and Luke 9). A picture is worth a thousand words, and it seems no words can do justice to what the three core disciples experienced and saw on that high mountain, although they tried.
And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with Him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Matthew 17: 2-5.
Here was the Messiah they had expected: lifted high, exalted, glorified, radiant. This was the moment for which they and all of Israel had been waiting all those lonely centuries of silence.
Just as at His baptism in the River Jordan, the heavens could not hold back their applause on the favored Son of God. Jesus’ face beamed under the delight radiating out from His vocal Father in Heaven.
What comes next they never expected. The radiant, whole and holy Son of God would walk down the mountain resolved to climb a different hill for a much darker finale.
I long for order, wholeness, rightness, fullness. In the rare moments when I experience them, I desperately try to bottle it up so that I can save them and live on them forever. I want to build tents in those places, too.
But just as the disciples were to walk down the Mount of Transfiguration, taking the glimpses of fullness they had seen back among the fragmented flocks of humanity, we are called to be filled to get back down in the fray.
Radiance, perfection, beauty.
Oh Lord, let us live on this height.
We’ll build tents and live right here,
Where we saw glory in plain sight.
For right here, our weariness waned,
Burdens were banished – all was right.
Insecurities secured, self right-sized
In godly fear without any fright.
The Father said “Listen to Him,”
The path He takes leads to life.
Follow Him who left glory’s mount
And willingly entered the strife.
Brokenness, weariness, frailness
Await at the base of this hill,
Descend now and enter the fray,
For that is the center of His will.
Bind up the broken hearted,
Set the captive masses free.
Bid them look to the Healer
Lifted high upon the Tree.
Places more permanent than tents
Jesus has gladly gone to prepare.
When He comes back to the earth,
Then in His glory you will share.