Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
Psalm: Psalm 74:13-23
If Mark is the newspaper reporter of the Gospel writers – he writes in short, sharp sentences with a degree of urgency – then Peter could be the TV reporter.
He liked to capture the moment, either with an instant opinion or soundbite, and here he seemed to want to create an image to lock in their experience on the mountaintop. If they make three dwellings, or booths, then there will always be a place where he and others can come back and remember that Moses, Elijah and Jesus appeared together.
There may be difficult days to come but Peter’s dream was that these dwellings could provide them with a bolt-hole – somewhere to be able to recall this holy moment and sit together reminiscing.
What he failed to remember was his previous assertion that Jesus is “the Messiah of God” (Luke 9:20). So shortly after being certain that Jesus is the one for whom all Israel has longed, he now wants to create a memorial that would say something completely different.
To have three dwellings – or shelters as other versions of the Bible put it – suggests that Jesus is no different in status to Moses and Elijah. And Peter wanted to lock that in stone.
Then, almost as if it’s a rebuke, the voice of God reminded the disciples: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (v. 35).
There are only three times in the Gospels when the voice of God speaks out loud – at Jesus’ Baptism (Luke 3:22), here at the Transfiguration and finally in John 12:27-28 after some Greeks ask to see Jesus. Each time God speaks it is to affirm Jesus as God’s beloved son.
Here it seems to make it clear that no one else stands in the same relationship: not even the heroes of Israel – Moses and Elijah.
- Do we make the mistake of trying to ‘lock in’ our experiences of God? If so, how might we prevent this?
- Are there holy moments that still sustain you in dark times? If so, what are they?