Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
Peter, John and James were undoubtedly blessed to experience the Transfiguration of Christ and the presence of Moses and Elijah on that mountain. They were bearing witness to one of Jesus’s most profound miracles where the divine and the human met in Christ. And Peter had to speak up. From how Peter is portrayed in the Gospels, this isn’t too surprising. He was always willing to step up or speak out when others weren’t. But this boldness occasionally got Peter into trouble, such as the time when he began sinking after stepping out of the boat or when he cut off the guard’s ear in Gethsemane. Luke 9:33 even makes it clear: “He did not know what he was saying.” It sounds like Peter felt like he had to say anything, even if he couldn’t think of anything of substance to say.
Of course, we’re all a little like Peter. Human nature makes it hard for us to sit silently to observe and listen when something awe-inspiring is taking place. We like to be heard and any real silence makes us uncomfortable. The Gospel also makes clear that Elijah and Moses were leaving when Peter decided to say something. Likely, he was trying to draw out this experience. He wasn’t ready to see these two great prophets leave on God’s time and so he wanted to keep them there by building lodgings. Again, this is a very relatable feeling. We so often want these incredible, miraculous experiences to take place on our own terms and our own time. Peter’s actions are a very good representation of human nature in the face of the divine.
But as always, God knows best and most people will agree that miraculous experiences are so much more significant when we fight our human tendencies to butt in, and instead, keep silent to listen and learn. For Peter, God’s voice came in a cloud reminding him to stop talking and listen to Jesus. While we may not always get such a dramatic reminder, Peter’s lesson should be our lesson as well. Sometimes, in the face of the incredible, we need to give up control and listen.
God in Heaven, thank you for speaking to us in the quiet moments. Be with us and remind us that sometimes it’s best to be quiet and give up control. We love you and thank you for the powerful love you show us. Amen.
Written by Preston Thiemann
Preston Thiemann married his wife, Rachel, in September 2017. They live here in Lincoln. He is the Web Content Coordinator for the ASEM Marketing team at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, where he’s worked since April 2015. At Sheridan, he also plays guitar on the Praise Band. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, watching movies and spending time with friends.