As if a glorified Jesus wasn’t enough, in verse 3 we see that two “special guests” appear: Elijah and Moses. To see Jesus in a glorified state with two of the greatest figures in Biblical history might prompt us to fall down and worship, but Peter offers to build 3 shelters (v.4). This is not as crazy as you may think. As part of the Law, God commanded Moses and the people to build Him a tabernacle (a big tent) so that He could dwell in the midst of them (Exodus 25:8). The word Peter uses here (the Greek word “skay-nay”) is the translation of the Hebrew word “suka”- the type of “tent” constructed for the Feast of Tabernacles which celebrates the time when God dwelled in His tent with the people of Israel. It is a temporary shelter to protect one from the heat of day or the cold of night and in this way Peter is acting as a gracious host by building three tents for three VIPs.
The backdrop of Old Testament history continues in verse 5. There we read that a cloud comes and overshadows Jesus, His guests and the disciples. The cloud is reminiscent of the time received the Law on top of Mount Sinai. At that time the people witnessed a massive cloud filled with thunder and lightning. A cloud and bright light also played a major role in leading the people through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud moving before them by day, and a pillar of fire leading them at night. All this to say: clouds plus bright light can mean only one thing- God is in the house!
To make this fact even clearer, a voice speaks from the cloud- in the Greek it literally comes “out of” the cloud. It cannot be attributed to human origin. It’s not the man behind the curtain as in the Wizard of Oz, another disciple who’s come up the hill or even one of the dignitaries conversing with Jesus. It’s God voice and no one else. And what does God say? “THIS is MY SON, whom I love”. God has already declared this once before at Jesus’ baptism (Mt. 3:17), but in this scenario, it is even more emphatic with the command, “Listen to Him” added to it. It could have been easy to get wrapped up in listening to Moses and Elijah, but the Lord says (literally), “You listen to Him.” Or “Listen up!”
Every now and then I give myself a litmus test to see how well I’m listening to Jesus. I think about how I spend my free time. Am I filling that time with Netflix, podcasts, social media, and other self-serving activities? I compare it to how much time I’m spending in God’s Word, in prayer or serving Him. The one which has the greater number indicates who I’m listening to. Go ahead- take this test yourself and see how things add up. The activity which has the greater number indicates who you are listening to. It’s a sobering test, isn’t it?
There are many voices in our world today. Some of them may seem interesting, even sensible. But they are not the voice we should be listening to. Peter had the advantage of physically seeing Jesus in a new and unfamiliar way which caused him to “listen to Jesus” more intently (2 Pet. 1:16-19) and he challenges us in 2 Pet. 3:17-18 to do the same. We might try to use the excuse that we have not been privileged with the same experience, but we have something far greater. God is in our house (1 Cor. 6:19-20; 2 Cor. 4:7), but are we really listening to Him?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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