You go up the mountain to receive something: a beautiful and inspiring view. Moses went up the mountain to receive the 10 Commandments. Or you go up to achieve something. But when you come down the mountain, all the excitement is over. You’ve learned or received the revelation, insight, wisdom, knowledge. Now, you’re returning to the land of the normal once again. That’s the mountain bottom experience.
Each year, about 800 people paying upwards of $75,000 sign up to climb Mount Everest. (This includes $11,000 climbing permit, $5,000 Sherpa, $3,700 bottled oxygen, $7,000 gear, and a lot of miscellaneous: travel, insurance, tips, etc.) They each have their own, unique reasons for the years of training, cost, and risk. Many climb Mount Everest to show that they can achieve anything. Some want a once-in-a-lifetime experience to talk about the rest of their lives.
The Mountain Bottom Experience
But interestingly enough, most of the deaths on Mount Everest occur on the descent. Depending on your source, somewhere between 73% – 85% of deaths on Mount Everest occur on the descent. It’s not the climb up, but the trip down that’s the most dangerous.
The same is true in our spiritual lives and small group experiences. It’s not the climb up as you struggle to take one step closer to God. It’s not the mountain-top experience or the “camp high” that’s the most dangerous. No, it’s the return to reality–the mountain bottom experience–where people trip, fall, injure themselves.
It’s in this most dangerous environment that Jesus gives Peter, James, and John his most demanding instruction.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
They are NOT to talk about the great experiences and truths they experienced on the mountain top. They saw Jesus transformed and shine like the sun. They heard the voice of God declare that Jesus was God and that the Father was hopelessly and eternally in love with his son. But God did not stop there, the command and instruction directly from the voice of God was to listen to him, obey him, change and conform our lives to follow him.
I don’t know about you, but this sure sounds like something I’d want to talk about! Shout about. Grab strangers on the street, at work, in the grocery store, and tell them my story, my experience.
How many people, after experiencing something like this, would go crazy writing about it on social media? How many videos would they post about their spiritual ecstasy?
But Jesus goes in another direction. He gives them an order, an explicit command that cannot be misunderstood. There is no question about the fact of what they saw and experienced on the mountaintop. And there is no question or misunderstanding about Jesus’ wishes, instructions, commands.
They must have been about to bust. Holding this experience and news inside was a great test of controlling themselves.
And here’s the great and unexpected news; they kept it to themselves! They actually obeyed Jesus and only talked about it between the three of them. Unlike so many people that had been healed by Jesus, told not to talk about it, but then proceeded to blab it to just about everyone they met.
We need to treat our small group conversations like the gift that they are; with grace, love, and confidentiality. Each of us has secrets. And when someone shares their secrets, it’s a mountain top holy ground experience. And we are to treat it as such. To do otherwise can easily cause someone to stumble as they come to the the mountain bottom experience.
There are no such restrictions about talking to Jesus about anything, everything. There are no deep secrets that he doesn’t already know. There is nothing you can say that will shock him.
And there is nothing you can share that will keep him away. He’s not like that.
Don’t we all want a relationship with someone like that? Don’t we all need a relationship with God like that?
And a small group is where many find that kind of relationship with God.
This article about the mountain bottom experience originally appeared on smallgroupnetwork.com.