Luke 9:32-36 (NIV) Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)
While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.
The three disciples with Jesus woke from a deep sleep to see the miraculous scene before them: Jesus shining like the sun, and the two great prophets, Moses and Elijah, talking with Him about His upcoming “Exodus” in Jerusalem. They watched and listened in silent awe as the three men talked.
When the conversation ended and Moses and Elijah were fading from view, Peter felt the need to say something. This was such an amazing moment, so charged with spiritual power, full of the aroma of the miraculous, that he didn’t want it to end. His basic premise was that Moses and Elijah didn’t have to go away; the disciples could easily build some shelters for them so that they could stick around and continue the visit.
But, as was frequently the case at this point, Peter’s heart was good, but his focus was off. Before Peter even finished his sentence, he and his companions saw a glowing cloud quickly approaching them. It came at them so fast that they were engulfed in the brightness before they had any chance to react.
Then a voice, loud, deep and majestic, the voice of God Himself, came from the cloud, terrifying all three disciples, and causing them to fall on their faces in terror (Matthew 17:6). “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” Their focus had been on the historical personages, great prophets of old, celebrities in their minds. They wanted them to stay so that they could rub shoulders with them for a while. But they were missing the fact that Jesus, the one that they were so familiar with, was now being revealed to them as God’s Son, in all of His eternal glory. Their focus was on the limited and temporal, when the eternal was mere inches away.
God’s voice completely overwhelmed these men, just as it had the Israelites 1500 years earlier (Exodus 20:19). Even after the cloud disappeared and Moses and Elijah had gone, they lay motionless on the ground, until Jesus touched them and warned them to keep what they had just witnessed to themselves (Matthew 17:7-9).
Father, it is humbling to realize that we, too, are prone to allow our focus to get off. We can so easily grow enamored of the words of the saints, both those of old and those of the current day, reading their books, meditating on their writings, and standing in awe of the depth of their insights, while the whole time ignoring, or setting at a lower priority the words of Jesus close at hand in our Bibles. Even in the Scriptures we can end up focusing more on the epistles than we do on the gospels, more on the words of Paul than on the words of Jesus. Help me to hear Your voice clearly today, terrifying though it may be, calling me back to a clearer focus on Jesus, Your Son, and His words. Amen.