Whenever the revelation of God’s glory shines the brightest, human frailty and foolishness become the most apparent. This certainly was true the day Jesus was transfigured before three of His disciples, Peter, James, and John. I love the way this amazing scene is described in The Message translation of Matthew 17:1-8: “Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light” (v. 2).
Ordinary humans may reflect God’s glory at times, like Moses did after he had spent 40 days in the Lord’s presence. As believers, each one of us has the incredible opportunity today to reflect His glory in this way: “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV).
But instead of merely being reflected glory, Jesus’ transfiguration wasn’t something more like “transmitted” glory: “His appearance changed from the inside out” (v. 1 MSG). What a sight it must have been to see “sunlight poured from His face,” as The Message translates verse 2.
Yet things began to get off track when the disciples “realized that Moses and Elijah were also there in deep conversation with him” (v. 3). Peter always had a plan, and he just couldn’t help himself from breaking in on this holy encounter: “Master, this is a great moment! What would you think if I built three memorials here on the mountain—one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah?” (v. 4)
Peter was well-meaning, of course—just as we are when we come up with bone-headed schemes to advance the kingdom of God. He probably thought Jesus would consider it quite an honor to have a memorial booth built for Him right next to Biblical dignitaries such as Moses and Elijah.
But Peter didn’t yet realize that Jesus was in a class all His own. He also didn’t realize how ridiculous and insulting it was to suggest that Jesus, the Son of God, should be confined to a box made by human hands.
Right in the middle of Peter’s rambling proposal, God interrupted him with a stern rebuke: “While he was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and sounding from deep in the cloud a voice: ‘This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him’” (v. 5).
It was as if the Heavenly Father was saying, “Thanks for the kindly suggestion, Peter. But instead of coming up with such hair-brained ideas, you need to sit still for a moment and LISTEN for a change!”
I don’t know about you, but I definitely have some of Peter’s tendencies. When I don’t take time to listen, I often come up with crazy ideas for helping God rule the world. Perhaps you can relate.
When Peter and the two other disciples heard this heavenly reprimand, “they fell flat on their faces, scared to death. But Jesus came over and touched them. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus” (vs. 6-8).
I love how this story ends. Peter no longer has any bright ideas. Moses and Elijah are gone, no longer a distraction. When the disciples finally opened their eyes and looked around, “all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.”
Don’t we all need this kind of glimpse of Jesus from time to time? In addition to transforming us, it would save us a lot of time and energy in not having to build unnecessary and counterproductive monuments to our own ingenuity.