High atop Mount Tabor in northern Israel stands the grand Church of the Transfiguration. Grand churches are not particularly odd in Israel. In fact they are everywhere, built to commemorate just about every biblical event. Somehow the one on Tabor struck me as odd.
Reaching the top of the 1,929 ft. mountain required a white-knuckled taxi ride up a zig-zagging road. The ride was quite a thrill. The cabbie shifted and steered like a racecar driver as we sped through hairpin curves in his beat-up Mercedes-Benz.
As we topped the mountain, I saw the church stretching toward the sky. It is a beautiful building. But I immediately remembered that Peter wanted to build three tents here.
Now a church stands on the same site. Because the building has three distinct sections, it is believed that the architect Antonio Barluzzi utilized the idea of the three tents in his design.
The Bible tells us that Peter, James and John saw Jesus in His glorified state along with Moses and Elijah (Mark 9:2-12). It must have been an amazing sight.
I think Peter’s motives for camping out there were pure. He had witnessed a magnificent event. Jesus didn’t rebuke him for the suggestion. However, Jesus knew God’s plan called for them to let go of this place, come down from the mountain top and move on with the mission.
Aren’t we just like Peter, we want to cling to our “mountain-top experiences.” We are refreshed on the “mountain.” On the “mountain” we feel so near to God and we cannot help but bask in His glory. The “mountain” is preparation time for where our journey will take us – through the “valley” (think Psalm 23).
Time in the “valley” is difficult, but that is where we learn to trust and follow God. The “valley” can be painful and confusing, but the mission of Jesus will take us there.
Barluzzi created a beautiful monument – an accidental monument to humanity. The Church of the Transfiguration reminds me more of Peter and myself, than it does of Jesus. As grand and beautiful as the building is, it is still merely a tent on Tabor.