“And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to him.’” (Mark 9:5-7)

Peter’s reaction to the transfiguration is similar to our national obsession with commemorating memorable events or honoring people who have performed some heroic deed, achieved some great accomplishments, or died tragically. If the Transfiguration were to happen today, many would try to immortalize it by erecting a monument, or as Peter said, three tents, and making it into a tourist attraction selling tickets, T-shirts and souvenirs. But such a reaction to this great event would be short-sighted and even idolatrous.

Peter’s statement showed that he had his own ideas about the Messiah which did not conform to God’s plan. He thought that the Transfiguration was the beginning of the Messiah’s glorious reign and he wanted to set up permanent tabernacles right there. Peter did not know that it was God’s plan for Jesus to suffer in order to achieve glory. He also not realize that by claiming equality Moses and Elijah with Jesus, he was committing idolatry. These men, as righteous as they were, were not equal to Jesus for they were human beings.

Yet we can forgive Peter and his companions for this because they were terrified of what they saw and did not know what to say. This is the appropriate reaction for anyone in the presence of the glory of God. Terrified, we could not boast of our goodness or our heroic and noble deeds. We would not even be able to tell God how great He is. The best we could say is “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” But that is what He wants.