The Necessity of Daily Ascents—Luke 9:28-36- March 3, 2019—DBC—Dr. Denny
Introduction: This morning we are going to take an exhilarating hike up one of the most iconic mountains in Palestine. It will be a sacred ascent in the tradition of Jesus our Savior who made this very trek before us. And in this journey, we will see the value of daily ascents. I believe every Christian should make a daily ascent, a daily spiritual journey. Spiritual ascents help us to rediscover our purpose in life and they also recharge our spirits as we absorb the power and grace of the Savior.
Anyone who has the physical strength and mental determination can walk the Appalachian Trail in our country created in 1921. It runs 2200 miles and passes through 14 states from Georgia to Maine.
However, if you go to Israel they too have such a trail—TheIsrael National Trail–that runs across the entire country of Israel from the north to the south—636 miles. It takes about 60 days to walk the entire trail. It is listed in National Geographic’s 20 most “epic trails.” It is said, “to delve into the grade scale of biblical landscapes as well as the everyday lives of the modern Israeli.”
This trail passes by our mountain this morning—Mt. Tabor—located in the world that Jesus knew just 11 miles west of the Sea of Galilee. It rises nearly 2000 ft out of the Jezreel Valley. It is a strange place because it is not a part of a mountain chain. It is an island all to itself, a majestic respite from the lowlands around it.
Our Ascent up Mt. Tabor
As we follow the Savior up the mountain we will remember that 8 days before this trek up Mt. Tabor, Jesus fed the 5000 down by the Sea of Galilee. And now Jesus needs to find some quiet time with God. And so he gathers his closest disciples—Peter, James, and John- and invites them to join him in prayer on the Mt. Tabor. (The mountain’s name is not mentioned in the Bible, but Origin, a luminary of the ancient church fathers of the 3rdcentury tells us that he believes Mt. Tabor to be the mountain).
The climb to the top is a beautiful one. Mt. Tabor is covered with vegetation including oak trees and over 400 varieties of plants including the large yellow crocuses, the Persian lily that stands several feet tall dressed in royal purple flowers and black-eyes red tulips that take your breath.
As Peter, James, and John followed Jesus up the long trail to the summit, they felt the presence of God in the beauty of the mountainside. Finally, they all stopped at the top and each found a place to kneel and pray. But it wasn’t long before all of the disciples were fast asleep and Jesus was left alone to reflect on His life—its purpose and plan, just as we must do daily in our ascents, our moments alone with God.
But then a most remarkable thing happened, missed entirely by the sleeping disciples—Jesus was transformed. The Greek text tells us his face changed much like that of Moses when he too climbed ancient Mt Horeb and received the law. Moses’ face glowed so brightly with the presence of the divine upon it that he had to cover it with a veil when he descended to talk with the people below.
And here the same thing happened- Jesus’ face brimmed with a heavenly light and his garments sparkled with the dazzling brightness of lightning (a Greek word used only one time n the NT-–ἐξαστράπτων). If only we had not fallen asleep! The disciples missed this at first. Can you imagine? But that was not all they missed. For as Jesus prayed two men joined Him. Moses and Elijah appeared upon the mountain and they all conversed. This was predicted in the final verses of the OT. If you turn to the last page of the OT you will read in Malachi 4:5-6 that Moses and Elijah would come in the final days and this prediction is now happening on Mt Tabor while the disciples sleep.
Could we pause here and just gaze at the wonder of it all? It is a heavenly scene like none other. Thomas Aquinas called this the greatest of all Jesus’ miracles. It is here that we get a glimpse behind the veil of time. Here we see what one day we will all experience. Heavenly beings shining like lightning, speaking of heavenly things.
Would you like to know what they spoke of specifically? We know what the conversation was about because Luke records it just as the disciples told him later. What did they talk about?—They talked about the Cross and the impending departure of Jesus after the resurrection (Luke 9:31).
But now comes the part of the story I love. Peter awakens and steps into a living dream. Only it’s not really a dream. For heaven is not a dream. He witnessed the realities of heaven and could scarcely speak. When his voice did come to him he could only stutter something silly like let me set up a tent for each of you so you can stay awhile. The Bible tells us that he didn’t even know what he was saying!
Why do we need daily ascents?
- First of because they clarify our purpose for living.
When we pause in each day and step aside from our busy lives and venture up the mountain with Jesus we begin to rethink our purpose in life. Why are we here? What has God called us to do with our lives? We need this time of reflection for without it we merely get lost in the world of endless activities.
- Secondly, we need to recharge our spirits. We need our faces to glow again. We need to absorb the power and glory of God into our lives. We need this daily and thus we need ascents daily.
Last year one of the most amazing physical feats anyone has every accomplished happened in Yosemite National Park. Alex Honnold, 33- climbed El Capitan, a 3000 vertical cliff face without any ropes or assistance. He planned this climb for 10 years and when he finally decided it was time to climb, on June 3, 2017, he had flutters in his stomach looking up at the peak in the clouds. And then he took the first step up and for four hours he climbed straight up a cliff that all the experts said was impossible to conquer. When he finally scrambled up on the top, he posed for a selfie holding all of his gear: shoes and a bag of chalk.
As amazing as this was, it pales in comparison with the transfigured Jesus on little Mt. Tabor. Maybe you can’t solo up El Capitan, but you can climb Mt. Tabor with Jesus and renew your purpose in life and recharge your spirit with the presence of God.