God’s Word for You
Mark 9:5-7 Listen to him
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, March 27, 2020
5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. We should put up three tents: one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 He did not know what to say, since they were very frightened.
A chronology of Jesus’ life places the transfiguration in the late summer just about six months before the crucifixion. It would have been late August or early September, just about the time the Jews celebrated the Feast of the Tabernacles. This was a celebration that went on for a whole week (Leviticus 23:34). It was a harvest festival, a time to praise God for his goodness: “For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete” (Deuteronomy 16:15).
Peter offered to put up tents (tabernacles) for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. It was a natural thing to do; a humble offer of praise and thanks to God. He and the other two disciples didn’t know what to think (they were “very frightened”). Those church fathers who speculated that Peter was trying to delay the sufferings of Jesus seem to give Peter far too much credit for understanding what was to come. I think that it is entirely plausible that Peter simply thought that the six of them—Peter, Jesus, James, Moses, John, and Elijah—were going to spend the seven days of the feast on this mountain. Some questions are answered by the nature of the festival. There are those who criticize Peter by asking, “Would Moses and Elijah need a place to sleep?” But the command of God was: “Live in temporary shelters for seven days. All who are native-born in Israel shall live in temporary shelters, so that your descendants may know that I had the children of Israel live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 23:42-43). Therefore, Peter was only showing that he knew the text of Moses better than the critics. Any other questions, such as where they thought they would get food for a week, are answered first by the Feeding of the Four Thousand and second by the simple statement of the Gospel: “He did not know what to say.” Since we suspect that Mark wrote down what Peter had shared, this is the best answer to all conjecture. Peter himself recalled, “I didn’t know what to say because I was just that scared.”
7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.”
Think back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve tremble in their fig leaves because they listened to Satan instead of God. And over at the foot of Mount Sinai, the twelve tribes of Israel weep over the smashed fragments of the Ten Commandments because they listened to each other rather than to God and his prophet Moses. Later, up on Mount Carmel, can you smell the acrid smoke still hanging in the air after the fire lept down from heaven to consume Elijah’s altar when the prophets of Baal wanted to lead the people to listen to a little statue rather than listen to Almighty God?
Yet after these and so many other incidents of the people listening to someone else rather than to God, what does God say here to the disciples? The Father speaks to them and to us from out of the cloud: “Listen to him.” To him! The thirty-nine books of the Old Testament preach the same message: Listen to the Lord your God and have no other God but him. This moment does not contradict any of that. It isn’t as if the Father suddenly changed his mind. No, the Father says: This is still the Lord your God speaking. When you listen to my Son, you are still listening to me. This is why Jesus was shining so brightly. This is why Moses had appeared, the scribe of the Law of the many sacrifices, to talk about the one last sacrifice that was to come. This is why Elijah appeared, the vanguard of the prophets, to talk with Jesus about the fulfillment of every prophecy.
Here we have a glimpse into the love of God as it exists as an immanent quality. “Immanent” is not a word we use very often. It means something that is always there, and with God, “always” takes on an infinite, eternal meaning. God’s love is immanent and is expressed even within the Three Persons of the Trinity in this way (or “at least” in this way): The Father loves the Son as his own image (Mark 9:7; Luke 20:13). The Son loves the Father since he was begotten of the Father (born from his heart) in eternity before the world was made (John 14:31). The Spirit loves Father and Son because he has always proceeded from them (John 14:26), and the Father and Son love the Spirit and know that his work is done because they are the ones who sent him (John 15:26, 16:7).
By saying “Listen to him,” the Father was also acknowledging that Jesus is the complete fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:15).
Speak, Lord. Your servants are listening.
Pastor Timothy Smith