Peter had reminded his audience they could trust his teaching because they could trust his testimony.
For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”— and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.2 Peter 1:16-18 (NASB)
Yesterday, we read together of what Peter saw. Today, we read what he heard.
Let Us Make Booths
Peter had become overwhelmed,
Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.Peter to Jesus, Mark 9:5 (NRSV)
It was so exciting to have Moses and Elijah there, to learn from, to admire, simply to be with! Peter wanted to honor them, honor the event, but he did not really understand what was going on. He saw Jesus and Moses and Elijah still as all the same – huge, glorious, amazing.
But the same.
“Dwellings” is the same Greek word the Septuagint uses for the Hebrew word “sukka” (or “booth”). Think Festival of Booths, or Sukkoth. Since they were in Caesarea Philippi at the time, it was most likely not the Festival of Booths. But Peter’s instinct was well-placed. He thought to build three leafy, flowering shelters for Jesus and these two great Prophets, because it was “good to be there” with them, to draw out this miraculous moment.
But the truth is, they were all terrified, and even Peter, who often was the spokesman and knew what to say . . . did not know, this time.
Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice,Mark 9:7 (NRSV)
This cloud was part of Israel’s history, it was God’s glory, called “shekinah” in Hebrew
- It can be argued the burning bush Moses encountered was illumined by this glory, a fire that glowed with blinding intensity but never burned.
- In Exodus God had protected the Hebrew people from the Egyptian army with this radiant cloud. God had then led the people through the Red Sea and through the desert in the light of God’s brilliance. By day, God’s Presence was a incandescent cloud, by night God’s Presence blazed like fire.
- This same mysterious luminous cloud surrounded Moses when he received God’s law written on two stone tablets, and later when he prayed for the people.
- When the tabernacle was completed, the Lord descended and filled it with God’s shekinah, God’s glory cloud, and again when Solomon’s temple was completed.
Now, the disciples fell down in dread and terror as God spoke,
“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”God, to Peter, James, and John, and perhaps also to Moses and Elijah, Mark 9:7 (NRSV)
One God, More than One Person
How could Jehovah God speak from heaven in shekinah glory and then there be also Jesus, God’s Son, also God, emanating shekinah glory?
When the Lord God was one God?
Yet this was the whole point of Jesus’ transfiguration. It was the display of his divine glory.
The Lord Jesus is truly God. Jesus would eventually tell his disciples to baptize all believers in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, God in three Persons, a blessed trinity. Although they are distinct, both the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are every bit as much God as God the Father is. All work together with one mind in all things.
No one really understands the full nature, the innermost nature, of God, as expressed in the trinity. The best we can do is to try to understand what the Hebrew scriptures, Jesus, and the apostles teach us about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and try to relate the three persons of the one Godhead without making too many mistakes or distortions.
This is My Son –
As the apostle Paul explained,
Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted himPhilippians 2:6-11 (NRSV)
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
God the Father is considered to be the first Person of the Trinity. That does not mean the Father existed first. God is eternal, with no beginning of any kind. There is no such thing as God having partly existed as the Father, and then later more fully existing as the Son and the Spirit. God, the triune God, fully existed as we know God now, from always, from before the beginning.
God the Father is described as having planned the creation of the cosmos and now sustains all things by the power of God’s word—God’s word being the Son. God the Father is the rightful Judge over all, yet has placed the Son on the throne of judgement. We understand that it is God the Father Who planned salvation through redemption.
The Beloved – Matthew’s gospel added “with him I am well pleased.”
The Lord Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God the Father. Jesus was a man like the disciples were men. He was born like any person, grew up in the ordinary way, made a living, supported a family.
The disciples lived with Jesus day and night. They knew he ate, slept, and did everything a person does. Yet Jesus alone held within him the divine glory of God. Jesus is both fully God and fully man.
As the apostles described it, Jesus is the image of the invisible God. The Lord is pleased to have all God’s fullness dwell in Jesus. Jesus is the effluvience of God’s glory, the exact representation of God’s being.
It is through Christ that the world is judged. And it is through Christ that the Father’s plan of salvation is fulfilled by the Son’s death. Now resurrected, Jesus reigns over his body, the church, as Lord.
Listen to Him –
This is God’s command to all people. Know who Jesus is and listen to him, respond to him, heed his words, put your faith in him. Jesus is the word by which the Father spoke and brought all things into being. He is the word which sustains all things. When God speaks, the Lord’s word is living, the Word penetrates hearts and brings the dead to life through the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the mighty power by which life was brought forth from the void, the agent of creation, the power that anointed kings and prophets, the essence of God’s life that fills hearts with joy. God the Holy Spirit calls men and women to faith in Christ, making them alive with the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead, and makes believers increasingly like Jesus through the work of sanctification.
The Spirit makes us able to listen to Jesus.
Not Defeat but Glorious Triumph
In his own gospel, Matthew described what happened after God spoke from heaven.
When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.Matthew 17:6-8 (NRSV)
Only the Lord, who loved them and wanted them to see that what lay ahead was not all humiliation and death. What lay ahead was the exodus into great glory.
[12th century Trasfiguration-fresco, in St. George Church in Kurbinovo, Macedonia | Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]