The development of Peter as a disciple continues in Matthew 17:1-9 where Jesus is transfigured. His garments are radiantly white, and Elijah and Moses join Him. In shock, Peter cries out: “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
There is no place for tabernacles alongside Jesus (Matthew 17:4)
Moses represented the Law. Elijah represented the fearless Prophets. And now there was Jesus who came to fulfill the Law. Was this a nice 3-person triumvirate? NO!
Moses brought and taught the Law. Elijah spoke as a Prophet. But Jesus alone LIVED OUT the Law and the Prophets. Moses and Elijahwere extremely godly and were used greatly by God. But neither of them EMBODIED the Law or Prophets. They simply asked people to live up to that standard that God had given them to share. But they were fallible and had rather big failings of anger and discouragement.
Jesus however brought reality to (fulfilled) the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). Many can bring the message of the truth. But only a small fraction live it out. Moses and Elijah could not tell people to follow them. They were chosen by God to be bearers of His truth, but they were never the examples that Jesus was, and that is required under the New Covenant (like Paul – 1 Corinthians 11:1).
The New Covenant (Agreement) is a “Follow Me” agreement. The New Covenant is for those who are willing to follow Jesus in everything, and will live a life that others can follow as well. Sotrue disciples of Jesus do not seek to merely BRING the message of Jesus; they are passionate in BEING the message of Jesus.
That is why we do not need a special ministry position. We all have 24 hours every day. And in our daily trials, we have opportunities to BE the message of Jesus in His kindness, His love, His purity, His righteousness, and His grace.
Godly people embrace the cross – because of what’s beyond the cross!
In the same story described in Luke 9, Elijah and Moses were talking to Jesus about the cross and all that Jesus was going to accomplish with that (Luke 9:30-31). You can imagine Moses’s and Elijah’s excitement. First of all, they had the unique opportunity to talk with God face to face. And the Fahter had sent them to talk with Christ about the unspeakably bright future that was on the other side of the death of Jesus.
And this is what Peter got wrong. He misunderstood the weight of Calvary’s cross.
Yes, three tabernacles of Jesus with Moses and Elijah would definitely shut up the Pharisees once and for all. But there would be a tremendous loss for eternity. This short-term validation of Jesus here on earth would have been disastrous for God’s eternal plan. If Jesus didn’t’ go to the cross, billions would have been lost without hope and nobody could ever approach God as Father.So Peter’s suggestion to build three tabernacleswas a disastrous idea.Jesus HAD to die so that we could become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Now what about our crosses? Do our earthly-bound minds misunderstand the eternal benefit of the afflictions and trials that God asks us to go through?
It is good for us to be here (Matthew 17:4)
Peter saw Moses and Elijah and a dazzling Jesus. This was heaven as far as Peter was concerned. How could it ever get more magnificent and glorious than that?
What about when we are at a most amazing Christian conference/ retreat? Or when the Word of God is being preached with a glorious anointing? And what if there’s also glorious fellowship with other men and women of God? Isn’t that the perfect setting? Jesus dazzling before us, and all of Scripture gloriously magnifying Jesus?
Is it not right to long for the perpetual atmosphere of mountain-top experiences with a dazzling Jesus and His saints???WRONG! Peter was wrong in this line of thinking 2000 years ago and we would be wrong in this line of thinking today! These “mountain top” experiences are once-in-a-while events that are wonderful gifts given to us, amidst the normalcy of the vast majority of our lives. Sowhile we rejoice and praise God for these experiences, it is in fact, NOT GOOD for us to remain there.
Let me use an analogy to illustrate what I mean. “Pure air” consists of Nitrogen (N2 ) at 78%, Oxygen (O2 ) at about 21%, with mostly rare inert gases making up the remaining 1%.So even though oxygen is essential for us to breathe, it is a relatively small part of pure air. And it’s actually NOT GOOD for our air to be all oxygen!
God in His wisdom has oxygen in a relatively small percentage because oxygen makes things combustible. The heat of the sunlight in an atmosphere of oxygen would cause dry wood to quickly catch fire and burn non-stop.
Here’s the application for our spiritual beings. What is the equivalent of the pure air for our spiritual beings? Oxygen can be compared to our spiritual activities – things such as attending church, service opportunities to help others, listening to online sermons or Christian music, etc. So what then does the 78% of nitrogen equate to? I think it is the normal, day-to-day circumstances of our lives. This is the overall make-up of the “pure air” that God has given for us to breathe for our spiritual lives.
(Maybe the “other” 1% are activities that fill in the gaps – like sleep!)
Now this is important to recognize because we think that the air that we need to breathe for our spiritual beings should consist of at least 78% church, service opportunities, listening to online sermons or Christian music, etc. We think that if only we could spend most or all of our days on this, then we would be very spiritual. But we’re wrong – that’s not God has ordained it in His infinite wisdom.
Now it’s not that all of these Christian activities are wrong or even unnecessary. No, like oxygen, many of these things are essential to help us to live holy lives. But a Christian life spent only on spiritual activities is highly combustible. We will burn up spiritually because we will become theoreticians and people who have not been tested and tried. We will burn up spiritually and cause the ruin of others as well.
God has NOT meant for our lives to be lived in separation from the normal world and isolated from all temptations. Jesus specifically said that He did NOT ask that the disciples be taken out of this world (John 17:15). It is the normal, ordinary activities of our daily lives that correspond to the nitrogen of pure air. The normal monotonous routine of our daily activities are the means by which God builds us up spiritually, primarily by building in us our faithfulness (i.e., lives full of faith).
This is My beloved Son (Matthew 17:5)
So how are we to live in the normalcy of every-day life? And how are we to live in the fires of trials and afflictions? We as Christians are not exempt from that. But we can live with an eternal and unshakeable hope if we see a revelation of Jesus Christ. Peter had worshiped Jesus as the Son of God, on the boat after Jesus had saved Him andh helped Him walk on water. But he forgot that and needed to be reminded of that. God gave Him a fresh revelation of Jesus as the Messiah (Matthew 16:16).
But Peter had now forgotten the special place that Jesus had. Peter had already lost sight of what he had said just 6 days earlier – that the “Son of the Living God” was infinitely superior to all the greatest of Old Testament saints put together. Peter had just confirmed (Matthew 16:14) that Jesus was not to be compared to any of the greatest Old Covenant saints. So how on earth could Peter now suggest three shrines (tabernacles), and thereby somehow equating Jesus to Moses and Elijah? And even if Peter was proposing that Jesus would have the biggest tabernacle, it’s no different. No servant is ever comparable to a son. And no servant of God should ever be compared to the Son of God. This was Peter’s mistake. He forgot the revelation that he had testified to in Matthew 16. Maybe it was because He was caught up with the fantastic experience – even greater than his walking on water. But whatever the reason, it was dead wrong. Jesus stood separate and completely higher from all who went before Him, and all who came after Him.