“Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Matthew 17: 4.
Peter’s interjection into the moment of Jesus’s transfiguration, while likely well-intended, reveals his own self-centeredness and pride. His own presence was meant to be lost in the glorious, radiant presence of a transfigured Jesus; however, the moment was nearly lost on Peter who was already moving forward in his own plans based on his own idea of what was good.
Rather than reveling in the more full knowledge of Jesus, Peter was too quickly revealing his own future ministry plans. In a moment that was meant to draw his human eyes up in wonder at his God, Peter seems to be drawing schematics for tents to memorialize the historic moment. Rather than making a list of the glorious attributes of God, his mind was running ahead to make a mental inventory of the supplies he might need to do this ministry.
If I am honest, I find far too much of Peter in me during this historic moment for the church. In the midst of COVID-19, an unprecedented time in the modern church, when my eyes are meant to be lifted in dependence upon the All-Sufficient One, I keep interjecting my own ideas of what is best, what can be done.
To my own embarrassment, I find that I am nonverbally saying to the Master, “It is good that I am here. Here are two programs we can create and three ideas to help meet the needs of our people.”
In a moment that is meant to show off humanity’s need for God as the nexus of all provision, I have mistaken myself and my ministry role as the nexus of care. I have been carrying weights that are meant to be laid at His scarred feet that are now seated at the Right Hand of the throne of God. I have been letting my mind spin with the needs all around me and the potential ideas that might meet them when it is meant to be transfixed on the face of the One who met our deepest need by becoming human, taking on our pain, and silencing the grave.
To my and Peter’s self-centered interjections, the Father seems to have a similar response.
He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).
A gentle, yet firm shove back to our proper places. Stop talking. Stop giving ideas that might please God. There is one who fully pleases the Father, and it is the Son. You would do well to listen to Him and fall on your faces before Him.
Peter responded the way anyone in their right mind should respond to such a divine correction spoken by God Himself: he fell on his faced terrified.
Jesus’s response to the corrected and prostrate disciples (it seems they were in line with Peter, ever the vocal spokesperson of the crew) is powerful.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only (Matthew 17:7-8).
The transfigured Jesus, dazzling with a face that shone like the sun, at heart, was the same fierce yet gentle Jesus who had walked among them by the fishing boats. He was the invisible God made visible even though His glory was not always fully visible to their veiled human eyes.
I imagine that, on that day, when Jesus was transfigured, Peter’s pride and his place in the grand story were also shown in new and different light. Yes, he had a role to play. No, it was not nearly as important as Peter imagined.
If I needed to be reminding to be still and stand in awe before Christ, the central One, I imagine there are many others in formal or informal ministry roles who need to be reminded the same.
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of Heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:24-25).