Accompanied by Peter, James and John, Jesus withdrew from the noise and din of the crowd to a solitary mountaintop. Here Jesus would pray and hear the voice of God the Father.
As Jesus prayed, he was transfigured. “His face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as light.” Just then, Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets personified, appeared and conversed with Jesus.
Peter enjoyed the moment so much he offered to build three shelters right there on the spot for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Immediately a bright cloud formed overhead. Moses and Elijah disappeared and the Father’s voice could be heard from the heavens, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”
Who can blame Peter for wanting to stay on the mountaintop with Jesus? Mountaintop experiences are needed from time to time. Time spent alone with God to pray and to hear his voice is crucial. These are the moments which strengthen our faith. In times like these we are renewed and we are inspired to greater things.
In this story, Peter failed to recognize two truths. His first mistake was to place Moses and Elijah on equal footing with Jesus. Moses and Elijah were great men of God, but Jesus is the Son of God, as the Father’s voice from heaven confirmed. Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets, were being eclipsed by the Son. The law and the prophets served as tutors to bring people to Christ — the Master Teacher. Even in the law, some matters were weightier than others. The Apostle Paul gives greatest weight and top priority to Jesus and his redeeming work as recorded in the gospels. Paul writes, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
Peter also possessed a short-sighted view of worship. Certainly worship includes spending time with Jesus, and time spent soaking up the Son is time well spent. However, worship is more. Worship is singing, dancing, clapping hands and more. Worship is Bible study, fellowship, communion, prayer, giving, serving and evangelism. These are acceptable sacrifices of worship. These sacerdotal avenues of worship are participatory and they are often communal. They often include others. Paul puts it this way, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.”
Jesus continued his true worship experience by descending the mountain and providing ministry to a man in need of healing. Worship is more than singing and clapping hands. Jesus teaches and demonstrates true worship is a sacrificial lifestyle. It’s service! Let’s follow in his steps.
Ken Haskins is pastor of First Christian Church in Carson City.