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Peter's Unwise Suggestion to Build Three Tabernacles on Mount Transfiguration

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

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Six days after Jesus told His disciples that He would be killed and raised from the dead (Luke 9:22), He took Peter, James, and John with Him up a high mountain to pray. The Bible does not give the name of the mountain. Therefore, biblical scholars call it the Mount of Transfiguration based on what happened there, according to all three of the synoptic gospels: Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36.

Mount Tabor, Mount Hermon, and other locations have been suggested, but not knowing the exact place does not take away from what we know about what happened on that high mountain.

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While praying on Mount Transfiguration, Jesus' appearance was transfigured into a glorified form. His face began to shine like the sun. His clothing became dazzling white. Moses (representing the law) and Elijah (representing the prophets) appeared and talked with Jesus about His death that would soon take place.

Peter's Suggestion

Just as Elijah and Moses begin to disappear, Peter makes a suggestion to Jesus.

"Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah." (Matthew 17:4)

That was Peter's attempt to keep Moses and Elijah on the mountain longer with Jesus. However, while Peter was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and they heard a voice out of the cloud.

"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." (Matthew 17:5)

This is similar to what God said about Jesus when He was baptized (Matthew 3:17).

When the disciples heard the voice, they fell on their faces because they were so afraid. Jesus came and touched them, and said, "Arise, and be not afraid" (Matthew 17:7).

And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Then they went down from the mountain.

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Staying on the Mountain Was a Bad Idea

Peter's suggestion to build three tabernacles on the mountain was a bad idea. Peter did not know what he was saying because the transfiguration was to show the inner circle what would happen after Jesus' death just as what happened after the death of Moses and Elijah.

Seeing the transfiguration served its purpose. The transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain was significant because it gave those three disciples a glimpse of the glory that Jesus had before He came to earth in the flesh and the glory He would have again. Also, it proved to them that Jesus was the one to bridge the gap between that Law and the Prophets.

The disciples had only known Jesus in His human body. Now they saw what He would be like when He would become glorified after His upcoming death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.

Disciples' Testimonies About the Transfiguration

Two of the three disciples later gave their testimonies about the transfiguration.

John wrote in his gospel:

“We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only” (John 1:14).

Peter wrote a more detailed account of the transfiguration:

“We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18).

Two of the disciples in the inner circle who witnessed the transfiguration shared what they saw and heard with the other disciples and to millions of us down through the ages. Had they not been there, we would not know about the accounts.

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Staying on the Mountain Would Have Been a Bad Idea for People

Everyone loves mountaintop experiences. We all look forward to them. However, it is not good to stay on the mountaintop all the time. Of course, Peter did not suggest that he and the other two disciples stay on the mountain. It would not have been a good suggestion if he had suggested it.

People cannot endure ecstasy all the time. We were not created to live in perpetual ecstasy. Instead, we were created to have a balanced life with lows as well as highs. We were created to stay “grounded.” To stay on a mountaintop is to ignore the reality of life because most lives consist of the good, the bad, and the ugly. To stay on a mountaintop is to avoid growing spiritually. A test of our faith comes when we deal with problems when we are in the valley.

There is nothing with having mountaintop experiences sometimes, but staying on the mountaintop all the time could cause our minds and hearts to explode with ecstasy. The results of our highs could be as devastating as our lows.

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