On April 3, 1968, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared this personal epiphany with an audience at the Church of God in Christ Headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee. Mountains have often had a significant role in God’s dealings with His people. In the English language we have the expression mountaintop experience. This expression has its origin in the Bible because of the encounters of different people have had with the Lord on various mountaintops. So the phrase has come to mean a moment of transcendence—an epiphany, and in particular, an instance of significant revelation given by God.
On Sunday, March 16, we will look at two accounts—one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament—of mountain-top experiences in the Bible. In Exodus, we will read about Moses’ encounter with the Lord on Mount Horeb, where he received the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. Then we join Peter—along with James and John—as they travel with Jesus up a high mountain where they witness their Rabbi transfigured—His face showing like the sun and His clothes a dazzling white—and joined by Elijah and Moses (Matthew 17:1–9). Like the epiphany of Martin Luther King, these are transcendent experiences. Yet Christians are called to be in the world if not of the world. All who ascend the mountain must descend the mountain as well. Like Martin Luther King would encounter an assassin’s bullet just a day later, Moses would encounter the spectacle of the people he was called to lead worshiping a golden calf. Peter would see his Lord who was visibly transformed into His true God-like stature beaten, scorned, and abused before finally being crucified at Golgotha. It is difficult—even jarring—to return to the world of sin and imperfection after any moment of epiphany. Yet that is what Christians are called to do. God gives the mountaintop experience in order to sustain His people as they go down into the valley. His revelation is always intended to help us to journey more closely with Him on the path we are called to walk.