How Not to Respond to Glory
Pastor Oliver reflects on last Sunday's sermon and explains what we can learn from Peter's response to the transfiguration of Christ.
Pastor Ian preached from Luke 9:28-36 this past Sunday. He ended his sermon with the challenge: "How would I respond to glory?" My heart was convicted: I was reflecting on his message and the passage this week, thinking about my own response. As I was meditating, I was drawn to Luke 9:32-33. I saw Peter's reaction and how it describes how not to respond to Jesus' glory.
Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake, they saw his [Jesus] glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah"—not knowing what he said.
Jesus' glory was revealed, yet Peter, James and John were dozing off. How can you sleep in the presence of such awesomeness? Putting this aside, we next see Peter and the others became fully awake. They apprehended the breathtaking glory of Jesus and saw Moses and Elijah, reflecting the beauty of this glory. Till this point, the disciples kept quiet and contemplated Jesus' glory. They seemed to be doing okay until Peter spoke to Jesus just as Moses and Elijah were leaving, "Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." Luke made an editorial comment on Peter's statement: "not knowing what he said". Peter, true to his brash nature, again spoke up before his brain had time to process. And Luke called him out on it. Peter did not know how to respond to Jesus' glory.
But what's wrong with Peter's statement? I mean, on the surface he seemed to say it's good that the disciples were with them so that they could serve Jesus, Moses and Elijah by setting up three tents. Isn't serving Jesus and the OT saints a good thing? The key to understanding this passage is in what Peter wanted to make. The word that translates to tents can also be translated tabernacles. Peter tried to prolong the mountaintop experience by suggesting they celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This major festival in the Jewish religion looked back at God's provision in the wilderness. It was regarded as anticipating God's ultimate deliverance. The festival's main activity involved constructing booths to live in for a week.
As commentator Darrell Bock writes, "though [the building of booths] recall the imagery of the Feast of Tabernacles, the booths were most likely a way for the visitors to prolong their stay. Peter probably wanted to continue the mountaintop experience." Peter wanted to continue to bask in the glory-glow. One way Christians ought not to respond to glory is to desire to prolong our mountaintop experiences. If God graciously allows for it, we receive it with gratitude, but most of life is lived in the valleys. We will only experience the fullness of glory and eternal delight only when Jesus Christ comes again. For now, Christians should be salt and light in wherever God places us in the world, obeying Christ wherever we find ourselves, even if it means suffering. By doing so, we point to Jesus Christ as our only satisfying glory.
Also, Bock continues that "most see Peter's error as his desire to build three booths, reflecting a sense of equality between the three figures. One booth for each luminary stands in contrast to the voice from heaven that follows [in verse 35]. By alluding to Deuteronomy 18, the voice makes clear that Jesus is special and that He is the superior successor to Moses." Peter mistakes the reflected glory of Moses and Elijah as the true glory of Christ. He thinks them to be equal.
God has given us preachers, teachers, evangelists, missionaries, biblical scholars and apologists, and many other heroes in the faith. If they are faithful, they would remember that they are but mirrors, reflecting Jesus' glory. Sometimes as Christians, we would "hero-worship" these men and women. I was at a Christian conference where the participants swooned and gave undue focus on the keynote speaker. Inordinate attention was given to the man (and knowing him, he would probably be embarrassed; instead, he would desire that the focus be on Jesus Christ). Sometimes we forget that all glory is due only to Jesus Christ, and not to men no matter how gifted they are and the contributions they make. We should not "hero-worship" men, forgetting that they are but servants of Jesus Christ.
So, how not to respond to glory? We should not respond by desiring to prolong the mountaintop experience nor giving undue focus on men who reflect the glory of Christ. Rather glory should be due to Jesus Christ alone. As Ian reminded as he closed off his sermon, we should reject the pursuit of our own glory and recognise and pursue Christ's glory. And we do this by our obedience to Christ's words, demonstrating our allegiance to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. May we live this way this coming week!
1. Join us this Sunday, June 14 at 9.00 am for our Worship Service online. We will be hearing from Luke 9:37-50 "Divided Hearts, Distorted Focus". Pray for God to prepare our hearts to receive God's Word.
2. Our next Quarterly Congregational Meeting (QCM) will be held on Sunday, July 5, 11am via Zoom. All English Congregation members are encouraged to attend. We'll be hearing about how God is working in our church, including welcoming new members and introducing our new interns. You can join via this link or QR code below:
3. Scripture calls Christians to join with other believers in a local church. Church membership is good for our spiritual health. To find out more about becoming a member of GBC, please contact Pastor Eugene (firstname.lastname@example.org). Our next membership class, Church Matters, will be conducted online over three consecutive Sundays, from July 19 to August 2.