It was probably the most unexpected request for the Feast of Booths ever made.
Jesus brought three of His disciples up on the slopes of a “high mountain,” probably Mount Hermon.
Six days after the prediction of His death in Jerusalem, Jesus gave affirmation to Peter, James and John of His glory, divine nature and coming Kingdom (see Matt. 16:28–17:8). The text says Jesus was “transfigured” on the mountain (Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:2). Jesus revealed His true glory, which His flesh had concealed like the veil of the Tabernacle had hidden God’s glory (see Heb. 10:20).
Suddenly, Moses and Elijah also appeared in glorious cameo appearances. They spoke of Jesus’ “departure” at Jerusalem, the very event Jesus had just revealed to His disciples in Caesarea Philippi (see Luke 9:31). Peter blurted: “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” (Matt. 17:4).
What was Peter suggesting? The prophet Zechariah had written that when the Messiah reigns on the earth, He will require all nations to come and celebrate Sukkot—the Feast of Booths, or Feast of the Tabernacles (see Zech. 14:16-19). Peter was pushing for the Kingdom to begin!
But even before Peter could finish his words, God the Father interrupted: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matt. 17:5). The disciples fell facedown in a coil of terror. I guess so!
The Kingdom will come indeed—Jesus showed the disciples that—but first they had a cross to bear. So do we (Mark 8:34).
The transfiguration confirmed that the only way to glory comes through the cross. There’s no going around it. Even in the presence of Christ’s glory on the mountain, Moses and Elijah spoke of Christ’s death, or “departure”—literally, in the Greek, His exodus (Luke 9:31)— a nice literary touch with Moses standing there.
Peter’s passion had been to pursue his interests, not God’s. Essentially he prayed, “Your kingdom come, my will be done!”
Although we don’t carry literal wooden crosses, Jesus’ metaphor still demands a literal application of the struggle God calls us each to bear. My cross—and your cross—represents the difficult obedience God requires daily.
Notice also the order of events: Jesus went to the cross before He experienced the joys of glory.
When will we learn that it can be no different for us?
Adapted from Wayne Stiles, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands and Lessons of Christ (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008), pp. 88-90.