Matthew 17:4, NRSV, “Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
I will be perfectly honest; in the past, when I have heard about Peter’s reaction to the transfiguration, I thought, “this is not the time, Peter”. I have not given him much credit, but I think that I get it more than ever before. Let’s look at his story.
He is led up the mountain with James and John. It is like an exclusive boys club. They must have been proud as they walked away with the exclusive attention of Christ. There Christ was, walking in front of them, leading them on. They had no idea what was going on; how could they? So, they keep going. I wonder if Christ was thinking, “Oh, they are never going to believe this!”
Matthew just says that they were walking along…and then Christ was transfigured. His face shone like the sun. Now that is unusual, eh? Can you imagine standing in front of someone and their face begins to shine? You can’t look straight into the sun without physically hurting yourself. So we know that it was intense, and unlike any man made light that he had seen. Christ’s clothes began to dazzle. That will take your breath away.
So, not only that, but Moses and Elijah show up…yep, sort of a big deal. Think of the weirdest dream that you have ever had. Just add in, “and then Moses and Elijah showed up and started to chat it up with Jesus”.
I like to think that it was some supernatural encouragement meeting. Christ was starting to talk about what was coming and the heavenly realm was showing support. What can I say, Christ was human, we all need encouragement? I could be totally wrong. It is just a thought. So, Peter was watching the pillars of his faith talking to the man he had just proclaimed as the Messiah. Things are starting to match up for him here.
Peter can’t help himself…there he goes. He has to say what is on his mind, and no I am not going to say the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles. I have no doubt that Peter is for real; he probably wants to stay there forever. Not only that, he wants company. He really wants to build a camping area with Jesus, Moses, Elijah. He is even willing to sleep outside.
Have you ever been in the presence of the Lord and thought, “This is it; I want nothing else. I want to go home”? You just want to stay with Him. The alternative is going back to being an imperfect role, the wife, the mom, the friend, the daughter. It is tough to go back to reality.
God knew that Peter was offering his services. He knew what was going on. He interrupted Peter’s fantasy with some poignant words. The point of the transfiguration was not to affirm the disciples. It was about Jesus. God took this as the second opportunity to publically substantiate Jesus’ position.
This is God’s Son. Christ is “the Beloved”; Christ is the first of the beloveds. God is pleased with Him. And now, for the command, and this IS for the disciples, you (the disciples) need to listen with your ears and your eyes! (This is a phrase that I have learned from children’s ministry.) This is the point in my prayer life that I know God is saying, “You are not useful to me on this mountain staring at my face.” If I stay there, I am willing to forsake all of God’s burdens for premature heaven. He simply says that it is time for me to go back. This is why constant communion with Christ is so important. It takes those moments and builds them into daily life. It can exist in the mother, the wife, the daughter and the friend. We can stare at His face down here in the low lands, too.
A situation that began with the exclusive attention of Christ, ended again with the exclusive attention of Christ. He picked up His friends off the ground and took them back down the mountain. Doesn’t it seem that all of the cool revelatory things happen on mountains? So, today I understand Peter better than I have before. The truth is, I would want to stay, too.
God, thank you for being a Savior that shines like the sun, as well as the one who reaches out a hand to pick us up when we are afraid. Thank you for bringing your truths to us through your word. Let us be deeply affected by what we understand as well as the mystery of your character.