I Peter 1:16-21
16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well please.” 18We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.
19So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
This is the Word of the LORD,
Thanks be to God
1Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared with them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then 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." 5While he was still speaking suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God
What a familiar scene. We tell this story every year, pulled from one of the three gospels. Each time we see the same thing happening, Jesus goes up with either his elite disciples or his special needs disciples, depending on one’s interpretation. Every time These great historical figures appear with Jesus, every time Jesus is shown to be God’s son. Every time, every time, every time, Peter sticks his foot in his mouth.
I wonder if the other disciples rolled their eyes at Peter when he jumped in every time. “Lord, it is good for us to be here;” What a totally silly thing for Peter to say, "Lord, it is good for us to be here;” it’s almost as though he’s congratulating Jesus for having the foresight to bring some people up there to know what to do when Moses and Elijah show up
Peter has the opportunity to see Jesus doing something that reveals that he is God, and he knows he’s not worthy of standing alongside the great prophets and the Messiah on this mountain. That’s his humility. He is profoundly uncomfortable with seeing God as God.
With good reason, I mean, if one ever encounters God and is left comfortable, one has a rather small God. The God Peter, James, and John encounter is quite large, and the three of them are terrified.
So Peter finds a way to ease his discomfort with encountering God in a classic way. Looking busy. Doesn’t really matter what, so long as it’s something of which God would approve. So we imagine Peter looking around so the big boss won’t find him just standing there, and he says, “if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But if you’re making a dwelling, you’re near the moment, not in the moment. Peter can’t stand it, so he decides he’d rather be close to Jesus than with Jesus.
Clergy are guilty of this all the time, we find ways to distance ourselves from the very God we serve in the name of “organization”, or of “flow of worship,” and because we’re already looking to the next thing we have to lead in the bulletin, we miss what’s happening right in front of us. I noticed a difference in myself last Sunday when we had a liturgist. I had more energy for preaching, and was more worshipful in my own heart because I could dwell with the LORD instead of getting stuck on making a dwelling.
Christians find all sorts of ways to do what Peter does in this passage. Got to do something because I just can’t handle what God is doing. So Peter opens his mouth, even though he doesn’t know what to say, and offers to do something, because he doesn’t know what to do.
We just saw something really amazing happen. We just saw our great historical heroes of faith standing alongside Jesus. We don’t know how to respond, but we think we have to so we start talking just to fill the space inside our own heads where we should be silenced by the awe of the situation.
It is easier to stand before God with a stupid look on my face and say, “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.” That way I don’t have to just watch God be God, because a true encounter with God will change me and I am absolutely terrified of that change.
“While he was still speaking suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’"
Don’t you know, Peter, what’s going on here? Don’t you know that you’re dealing with your Lord? Do you really want to run off and try to get a little work done? “This is my son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”
Why are you talking when you could be listen to the very Son of God who has come here to save the whole world from itself? Why are you trying to make a dwelling when you can dwell with watch the author of creation as he re-writes your sinful reality into something that is whole again?
And Peter is silenced. He had not only seen that Jesus is indeed the Christ, but he has heard the LORD speaking to him and his terror is replaced with wonder. The transfiguration we witness today is when we are silenced with awe for what God has done in our lives, transforming us when we’d rather change the subject. This transfiguration changes everything, and “And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.”
A huge part of the Gospel is God bridging what separates us from God, and this story is an example of exactly that. Peter finds a way to distance himself from God under the guise of serving Jesus, and God refuses to be kept at bay. God will not be kept at a safe distance, whether we would do that by building shrines on a mountaintop, by hiding from our calling, or by putting the details in the way of our relationship with the LORD. God strips us whatever it is we would put in God’s way and leaves us, on a mountaintop, with Jesus.
When God reveals himself, there’s a reason that the first thing said is “Do not be afraid.” When we hear the word of the Lord, it consumes us and wipes away all of the pretense and dwelling-making we can throw at it. It leaves us with only our Lord, once we get out of our own way and allow ourselves to be in that moment rather than veiling it, we can be with God, and be filled with a wholeness that we cannot imagine. Because in that moment, all of our fear is swept away, replaced with the assurance that we are standing in the presence of God’s Son, whom God dearly loves.
“Lord, it is good for us to be here; But not for the reasons we think, it’s good that we are here because God have chosen to share himself with us.
God has chosen to share himself with us, and it’s an intimate moment that should be kept private, not out of shame, but because moments when God silences us should be cherished. I think this is why Christ tells the disciples to keep their experiences to themselves until after his resurrection. I think it’s a recognition that something amazing has happened, but that the moment has passed, and we cannot relive it or recreate it in any way that does it justice. We can only wait for the next time that God reveals himself to us, and do our best to take part in what is happening around us.
When we find that the LORD is in our midst, I am confident that we have faith enough in our risen Lord to be silenced...
Because we know that God’s voice is worth listening for.