Luke 9 : 28-36
28 About eight days later Jesus took Peter, John, and James up on a mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus. 31 They were glorious to see. And they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem. 32 Peter and the others had fallen asleep. When they woke up, they saw Jesus’ glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter, not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out, “Master, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 34 But even as he was saying this, a cloud overshadowed them, and terror gripped them as the cloud covered them. 35 Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.” 36 When the voice finished, Jesus was there alone. They didn’t tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
What a sight to behold; Jesus, Moses and Elijah. I have always wondered how Peter knew that he was looking at Moses and Elijah, surrounding Jesus and His glory, considering he would have no photo to reference. I can only assume Jesus had said the two’s names during the conversation that woke Peter from his nap.
Peter, as typical, is ready to do something to prove his worthiness of what God is allowing him to experience. Without thinking, he blurts out, “Let’s build something to memorialize this moment of glory forever”. Of course Peter is well meaning, like most of us are when we want to treasure a special moment we have had with the Lord. We Church folk love to build structures and programs around experiences we have had with God so we can come back to them over and over again and relive the experience. I believe the intention of doing so is good and can connect us with God for a season, but there is a subtle danger in doing so.
Oftentimes we can replace having fresh encounters with God with memorials of encounters we have had in the past. Why do we tend to do this? Simply because it’s comfortable and agreeable with our flesh; which fresh encounters with a Holy and living God are most certainly not.
It’s much easier to remember how Jesus convicted us in the past than it is to open our hearts to conviction in the present. It’s much easier to remember how He performed a miracle in the past than it is to cultivate hunger and travailing prayer for Him to do it again now. It’s much easier to remember how His presence once brought fear and repentance than it is to expect the same today. It’s much easier to remember how forsaking the things of this world and trusting solely in His provision once blessed us then it is to walk in such trust and obedience today. I could go on, but I think the point is clear. It is much easier to remember experiences with God in the past than it is to walk in relationship with Him in the present. Religion is built on things that God did once before, relationship is built upon us engaging with and partnering with what God is doing now.
Peter, not knowing any better, is trying to turn this moment into a religious experience rather than letting this moment propel him further into his relationship with the one true God from this moment forward. Which is exactly what God is inviting Peter into, by letting him witness this event on top of the mountain.
Let's look at the details. Jesus is preparing himself for His great exodus from the natural world, and so the Father surrounds Him with two witnesses that have some experience with exoduses as well. Moses who led Israel's exodus from Egypt and brought the revelation of the law of God to His people. Elijah who led Israel into an exodus from Jezebel and worship of the false god Baal, and who also brought the revelation of the prophets of God. So in essence, the law and the prophets testify the full revelation of Father God’s word to the people of earth... Jesus is leading the final exodus of God's people from the grave into eternal life. He is the Messiah, the Son of God who fulfills the requirements of the law and prophets, and with whom God is pleased with. Of course this is an awesome revelation and experience for Peter to remember for the rest of his life. More importantly this moment also comes with a commandment and invitation to propel him further into his relationship with Jesus from this point on. As a glory cloud surrounds them the voice of God commands, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to Him.” In other words don’t let this moment become an idol in your life. Let this moment lead you into a greater relationship and obedience with Jesus. Relate to Him not just as a beloved leader and teacher, but also as God Almighty. Relationship with Jesus is the fulfillment and point of everything you have experienced and seen prior.
This is the responsibility of every believer. That we would honor and treasure experiences we have had with God, but we would also allow those experiences to propel us into a deeper, richer relationship with Jesus in the present. That what He has done for us in the past would prepare us for what He is doing now and will do in the future. When we try to build memorials from memories of experiences we have had with God, we are marking the spot where our relationship with Jesus stopped being alive and vibrant. We are marking the grave spot with a tombstone that reads, “this is where my faith walk died and became a religious experience.”
Love, Pastor John