The Mount of Transfiguration – Part 1: Peter, James, and John
“…Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.” (Mark 9:2 NIV)
Jesus took three of his disciples—Peter, James and John— and led them up to a high mountain to be alone with him. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed. His clothes became dazzling white; and Moses and Elijah appeared and were talking with him. At this, Peter, the boldest of the three disciples, offered to build three shelters, one for the Elijah, one for Moses and another for Jesus. Lest we think that Peter had some special direction from above that caused him to say that, the Bible tells us that he said it only because he was so frightened that he didn’t know what else to say! How relatable does Peter become to us when it is put that way?!
The more interesting thing to note here, however, is the fact that—as at other times— Peter, James and John were almost like an inner circle in certain situations recounted in the gospels. The most notable of these instances was the time when they were asked by Jesus to wait with him in prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane. They failed miserably at that task; but throughout Jesus’ ministry, these three disciples seemed to be closer to the Lord. In some ways, they were permitted to witness things that the other disciples didn’t witness. Jesus seemed to be more intimate with these three in conversation; in sum, they seemed to be more privileged than the others. Why was that so? Was it something that he saw in them— perhaps an appetite for God and for understanding greater than that in the other nine?
Well, we know for sure that Peter, James and John didn’t earn their standing with Jesus. Peter was a braggart who wouldn’t learn anything from anyone. And James and John certainly couldn’t have earned their privileged place with Jesus; they were the ones who asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven and destroy a Samaritan village that did not welcome him.
What was it, then, that caused Jesus to include these three flawed disciples in his inner circle? It’s actually quite simple. It seems that included among Jesus’ favorites are those who favor him. “Draw near to God,” it says in the New Testament, “and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). And in the Old Testament, we read that God revealed his acts to Israel but his ways to Moses (Psalm 103:7). God’s people saw the mighty acts of God, but Moses had a heart that was closer to him.
I want to have that relationship with the Lord, don’t you? The story of Peter, James and John, and the story of Moses should in fact encourage all of us. After all, we can all be closer to God. That involves spending time with him and in his Word.
To be continued…
Read Mark 9:2-6.