On the Mountain Top
May 23, 2021
Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah" (Matthew 17:4).
A ‘tabernacle’ was a tent made by fixing posts into the ground, stretching cloth over them, and fastening it together with cords. In some instances they were made of tree branches as a temporary shelter from the sun and rain. These tents were also houses common to the nomadic tribes in the ancient Middle East.
Peter’s request was reminiscent of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-44), also called ‘Sukkot’ - Hebrew for ‘booths’ or ‘tents’. The Feast was, and is a 7 day celebration in the Fall of the year that honors the 40 year pilgrimage of the Israelites through the desert of Sinai. The Jewish people lived in tents the entire time. After settling in Canaan, the Jews lived in makeshift tents for 7 days to commemorate their freedom from Egypt by the hand of God. It was, and is a recognition of God's salvation, shelter, provision, and faithfulness.
Peter is again at the forefront of the event by speaking for the other disciples, though it is not clear what he meant by saying, Lord, it is good for us to be here. Luke 9:33 adds, not realizing what he was saying, because they had been asleep (v. 32), while Mark 9:6 said, For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. “So it is not well to take Peter too seriously on this occasion” (A.T. Robertson). However, the Feast of Tabernacles was not far off, and Peter may have meant they should just stay up on the mountain and not go to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles because the event they had just witnessed was spiritually mind-blowing!
I believe Peter rejoiced at what he had seen and didn’t want the experience to end. Would we, had we been there? This was truly a ‘mountain top’ experience for Peter, James, and John. They had seen the Lord’s glory unveiled. He was speaking to Moses and Elijah. The brilliance of the light in the dark night was incredible. Who would want to leave the mountain top for the life back down in the valley? We’ve all had such spiritual experiences.
However, according to the Gospel of Mark, the request was improper because it was selfish (what about the other disciples?) and certainly not in God’s plan for Jesus, just as it would be for us to stay ‘on the mountain top’. We must continue to keep such experiences with the Lord in context. Our lives are not to be lived on the mountain tops; we must return to the valleys where the Lord can best use us to minister to others. We need mountain top experiences to inspire and motivate us, to give us a foretaste of what heaven will be like. But we also need to share those experiences with others so they can know that same spiritual inspiration and joy.
“Thank You, Lord Jesus, for those mountain top experiences I have had with You. Quite often they came at a time when I was desperately in need of Your encouragement and support. Continue to touch my life with new vistas of Your glory, and remind me to share those joys with others along the way. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”