Men go back to the mountains, as they go back to sailing ships at sea, because in the mountains and on the sea they must face up, as did men of another age, to the challenge of nature. Modern man lives in a highly synthetic kind of existence. He specializes in this and that. Rarely does he test all his powers or find himself whole. But in the hills and on the water the character of a man comes out. -Abram T. Collier
I recently took my daughter and some of her teenage friends on an unforgettable climb. Standing on a peak is a breathtaking experience. You can remember the climb and the view from the top with great clarity. Mountain top experiences are common in the Bible because as Christian Outdoor Leadership illustrates, “the wilderness has always been a special place God uses to transform people.”
A MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCE CAN HELP YOU WALK THROUGH THE DIFFICULT RAVINES OF LIFE IN THE VALLEY
The perspective you gain from a mountain top experience can help you when you walk through some of the more difficult ravines of my normal daily routine—in the valley below. Have you ever observed that hardly anything lives on the mountaintop? This is because the environment is too harsh for creatures to thrive. Life is lived in the valley 24/7 but God knows that we need mountain top experiences from time to time. But what are God’s purposes for mountain top experiences? The Bible indicates that times of perspective on the mountain are designed to carve landmarks of perspective into our memory, which can fuel new hope as we journey in the valleys below.
Jesus initiated many “mountaintop experiences” with his disciples. Here is one passage you might use the next time you take a group up a mountain, along with six discussion questions that have proven to make the mountain top experience more intentional. The mountain top experience in Luke 9:18-36 provides some great fuel for reflection on the mountain top:
Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah
Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” (Luke 19:18-20)
Jesus Predicts His Death
Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 19:21-27)
About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)
While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen. (Luke 19:28-36)
6 MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCE QUIET TIME QUESTIONS FROM LUKE 19:18-36
- List some of the people in this passage.
- According to the passage how does Jesus describe what must happen to the Son of Man?
- What are some of the words and phrases Jesus uses to describe the kind of lifestyle his disciples must choose in order to follow him?
- In your own words, how did the three disciples respond to Jesus’ transfiguration up on the mountain?
- In what ways do you think this mountain top experience with Jesus might have helped the disciples persevere throughout their life to live the way Jesus called them to live (in verses 23-25)?
- How might God be speaking to you today from this “mountain top experience” to inspire you toward the high standard and calling of being a disciple in today’s youth culture?
It is a healthy practice for us to climb mountains with those we’re leading in order to help them gain a renewed sense of the larger landscape of God’s purposes in our world, our city, and our neighborhood—beyond our own limited personal perspective. You need mountain top experiences from time to time (like Jesus’ disciples did) so you don’t get stuck in a rut that saps your joy.