In the gospel accounts we find a time when Jesus took Peter, James and John up onto a mountain and was transfigured before them, appearing with Moses and Elijah. The resultant pronouncement by Peter and God’s response are instructive.
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)Mark 9:5-7 NIV
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Peter was frightened, and I can sure understand that, no doubt I would be as well. After all, this is Moses, the great law giver, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets. While I have always wondered how the disciples recognized the pair, obviously they did and were awed by the occasion.
Peter’s response seems curious at first, and God’s response to Peter also seemed strange and somewhat disconnected. But maybe Peter’s words are revealing a lack of understanding of who Jesus is. Peter’s desire to make tabernacles for each of the three would seem to indicate that he placed them on a somewhat level playing field. And maybe he even thought he was honoring Jesus by putting him at the same level as Moses and Elijah. That would seem to be a high honor indeed. But was it?
But God responded with a correction to Peter, identifying Jesus as being much greater than either Moses or Elijah. Jesus wasn’t a law giver, or a prophet; servants of God. He is the beloved son of God himself. Moses, in his time, was one worth listening to; as was Elijah. But now they have Jesus. Listen to what he has to say. Don’t confuse Jesus as being an equal of Moses or Elijah; he is much more than that.
What was true for Peter and his companions is true for us today. We need to listen to Jesus. Moses and Elijah have some value. Many preachers and scholars since have had good things to say. But Jesus, God’s beloved son, is the one God commands us to listen to. We do well to heed his words and not let Jesus voice be drowned out by all of the competing voices of our world.