After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves… And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” Matthew 17:1, 14-16
Life at the Foot of the Mountain
Have you ever wondered what it was like back down the mountain with all the other disciples who did NOT get to make the trip up to the transfiguration? I have:
So what do you guys think this is all about? I mean, surely I’m not the only one of us whose ego is bruised by this. Why would the Master choose those three over any of us? Maybe James and John, sure, but Peter? Really? Over any of us? He sticks his foot in his mouth every time he opens it…so very impulsive and childish…remember just last week how Jesus rebuked him? So, why Peter? Why on earth would Jesus pick him? Are any of you worried about what this means about our place in the new order of things? Jesus keeps talking about the kingdom of God being at hand and how everything is about to change. Do we even know what that means? What do you think our roles will be in his new kingdom? Do we really have to put up with Peter outranking us? I just don’t know if I can live with that.
And now, as if God is just trying to show us what huge LOSERS we are, we try to help this man with his lunatic son and fail…miserably. No telling what Jesus will have to say to us about that when He comes back down the mountain. It seems we just can’t get anything right. And then, of course, we’ll have to listen to Peter go on and on about all the secret “stuff” we missed at the top of the mountain. AAAAUUGGGHHH!!! I just don’t know if I can stand it! I‘ve got some questions for Jesus when He gets back down. What does this mean about our “standing” in the kingdom? Who among us will be over whom? How will we rank? I’m just saying…
The Self-centered Heart of the Disciples
Obviously, we don’t really know much about the scene down there. Just bits and pieces of information. The larger context is important. Jesus had already sent them out to heal and to cast out demons. They had experienced the success of those miracles. They knew some things about casting out demons, so there was cause for some ego. And we know they failed this time. We know Jesus rebukes them for their “little faith” and for their lack of prayer, implying they may have tried this exorcism in their own power rather than in God’s power. And we get a great deal more clarity in light of the discussion that ensued as soon as they were all together again (Matthew 18): “Who among us is the greatest…?” These are all evidence of self centeredness and ego.
The Self-centered Heart of Church Fights
That kind of pride and ego is at the heart of most church fights I have seen. Not always…but most of the time. It seems that our desire to be on the top of the mountain, to be one of the ones in the inner circle, is directly responsible for so very much of the unhealthy conflict we face in churches today. Remember Pastor James’ words (James 4:1-2): “What causes fights and quarrels among you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” Life in the church is filled with disappointments.
I recognize those feelings because I have felt them. Like the disciples, I am capable of having an ego and I am not proud of that. In fact, looking back on those times, it is pretty humiliating. God, save me from that ugliness. Help me bloom where You plant me, whether it is up high or down low. I will care for the people around me, wherever that may be, and I will be happy to do it. I will rejoice at the foot of the mountain! The church’s health depends on it.