A reflection Luke 9:28-43 by the Rev. Crystal Karr
28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.32Now 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.33Just 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.34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”36When 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.
37On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.38Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child.39Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him.40I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”41Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”42While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.
I adore Peter, probably because I can relate. Here Peter is confronted with an amazing site—the man he’s been following transformed into a vision of whiteness while talking with two other men—Elijah and Moses. Still rubbing the sleep from his eyes, unable to take in all that he is witnessing, rather than taking a moment to process what is going on (not that he could have anyway) he blurts out the first thing that comes into his head—to make a lasting marker on the mountain for each of the great men before him. Then comes God’s voice, “Just stop! Shut up and listen!” I can imagine Peter, stumbling and embarrassed. He wants desperately to please Jesus, to be the one who gets it, who understands…even when he clearly does not.
This week I subbed as the librarian at an elementary school. As I envisioned Peter on the mountain top with Jesus, Elijah, Moses, and the other disciples I was reminded of one of the books, The Dinosaur’s New Clothes
It’s a new take on the old story of The Emperor’s New Clothes—two swindler’s come to town proclaiming a glorious robe made of cloth only intelligent and “dinosaurs fit for their jobs” can see. Everyone utterly afraid that their foolishness, stupidity, or unfitness for their job would show through they lied about seeing the robe. Peter on the other hand, sees the glory of Jesus blazing before him. He wants everyone to know that he sees it, that he understands it. He wants to make it known. I imagine he wants to tell the story so that everyone knows that he was there, he put up the dwellings, he saw it first.
How much trouble in this world is caused by wanting to prove ourselves worthy? Prove ourselves intelligent? Prove ourselves fit for our jobs? Too often in moments in which we need time and space to breathe, to take in the experience, to simply sit and process so what we witness can make a lasting significance in our heart and lives, we jump to bragging about being their first, how to fix it without thinking first, or we go along with the crowd so not to be considered stupid and unintelligent.