Summary: It is from the mountaintop spiritual experiences that we gain the encouragement and strength to face the difficult times.
(Luke 9:31) The word “decease” means exodus, which should be accomplished in Jerusalem. They were talking about the cross. But notice the word “accomplish.” His death on the cross was not a disaster or accident, but rather it was the accomplishment of what He came into to this world to do.
Peter is first of the disciples to react to the events going on around them as recorded in verse five, “Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"—(6) because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid.” (vv. 5-6)
The wonder and adoration of that moment was overwhelming. When God does something unexpected, something outside of our realm of experience, words fail us. Mark says that Peter, “…did not know what to say because he was terrified.” (v. 6) But Peter was always someone who had something to say even when there is nothing to say. Peter was the kind of guy who feels that it his job to fill every moment of silence with some verbal observation. I think all of us have fallen into that trap at sometime in our lives.
So Peter says, “….let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (v. 5)
I don’t know for sure what Peter’s intent was but surely implied in the making of the tabernacles is the desire to remain there. Peter and the others wanted to prolong the great moment on the mount. That is the danger of mountaintop experiences, we want to linger there, we don’t want to leave. But I also want you to realize that Peter was perhaps inadvertently putting Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah – just as Islam does today.
Yet the tremendous experience on the mountain top was not designed to produce a spiritual experience that would merely provide emotional satisfaction for the disciples. We need to be on guard lest we interpret our own spiritual experiences with God in terms of something merely to be enjoyed. We are encouraged, that we might be ready to serve.
But while Peter is still speaking God interrupted him and his thoughts of tabernacles when a cloud overshadows them.
•A cloud overshadowed them (7a)
In verse seven we read, “And a cloud came and overshadowed them.” This is the Shekinah glory of God – which was the visible symbol of the power and presence of God. This cloud had led the children of Israel in the wilderness – the cloud by day and fire by night (Exodus 13:21). This cloud had covered the Tabernacle when it was finished (Exodus 40:35). This cloud had filled the Temple of Solomon when it was completed (1Kings 8:10). It was the same cloud of glory that Ezekiel watched depart because of Israel’s apostasy (Ezk. 11:22). But it had not be seen in Israel for 600 years!!! And now it surrounds them on the mount.
•A voice spoke to them (v. 7b)
As the cloud settled on top of the mountain, out of cloud booms the very voice of God saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" It was a gentle rebuke to Peter because the Father did not say anything about Elijah or Moses. He said, “this is my SON, hear to him.”