Life of Peter, by N.E. Rhodes Jr. — No. 11


We have been studying the transfiguration. Simon Peter, with James and John, has accompanied Jesus up a mountain and there seen his Lord wonderfully transfigured before him. When Moses and Elias appear and talk with Jesus, Peter can contain himself no longer.

Joy Breaks Out

He makes the suggestion that they build three tabernacles. We would expect that when Peter spoke the spell would have been broken. But God is ever full of surprises. Instead of breaking the wondrous spell of divine glory that hung over the mountain it seems to intensify it. A small cloud moves over. There is nothing in a cloud that could compare with the appearance of Moses and Elias. Certainly there is nothing in a cloud that could compare with the glory of the transfigured Jesus. Yet the three disciples, who have been able to witness and bear the glory of the scene before them until now, are suddenly overwhelmed. Even Peter, who had possessed the heart to speak in the presence of the splendor, falls prone on the ground with the other two disciples. It was not of course the cloud, but something that passed with the cloud. It was a presence that made all the events up till now seem small in comparison. It was the overwhelming sense of the presence of eternal God concentrated on this one spot on little earth and from this spot spreading out beyond the universe still. A voice speaks that is not described, perhaps because it was indescribable.

A Small Voice or Thunder?

The vision of the Christ on Patmos spoke with the sound of many waters. The message came to Elijah under the juniper tree as the sound of a gentle stillness. One group who heard this voice had thought that it was thunder. If you can imagine a voice like rolling thunder or great cascading waters that penetrates the soul with gentle stillness while it speaks coherently words of meaning and tremendous import, you may be able to grasp vaguely the immense emotion that shook the disciples at this moment. The voice, unmistakably the voice of God, claims his own Son and commands their obedience to that Son. It is too much. They lie there like dead men. But then they feel the hands of Jesus and hear his kindly voice saying, “Arise, be not afraid.” What a world of comfort that must have been to them. God himself had passed over them, spoken to them, commanded them, but they need not be afraid. They had nothing to fear.

The Spell Leaves, But a Friendly Face Appears

They look up expecting to see the glory of that heavenly radiance, the two strange figures from the past, and the splendor of the incarnate Son of God. But instead they see a quiet, friendly, familiar face. It is the same Jesus they have been used to, standing there alone. The glory has faded. The light is gone. It must have held a terrible sense of loss. It must have been a painful leave taking to turn and start back down the mountain. Would it not have been much better to have stayed there and built the tabernacles? But down there in the valley, a distraught father awaits with a demoniac son. Down there, wailing need is begging for just such strength as they have seen on the mountaintop.

Looking for the Wrong Things

It is ever so. The great men of the earth will hold the Christ and his kingdom in contempt or else follow a false Christ. The intellectually proud and the wealthy will turn away. The disciples who looked for the wrong thing will leave. The men we think could help the movement by adding prestige and power go away. Finally we turn to God in an effort to escape men altogether. On the mountain of adoration we see that God needs neither the power nor the prestige of men. All he needs from men is their surrender. We want to isolate ourselves in other worldly meditation and prayer and have no more to do with this mad rat race of men.

Going Through Needful Valley

But down in the valley is need. Not men of power and prestige, but men of poverty and despair call us down. Here are the problems of earth calling. It is not the world come to pay homage, but the world come to be succored and helped. Only for men who can accept this fact does God have mountaintop experiences.

Looking Up to the Hills

Do we tire of the demands made on us? Do we fret at the weary tedium of a life dedicated to other purposes than the ones we dreamed of? How do you suppose that ragged, dirty mob looked to the men who had just been on the mountain with God? Listen to Jesus, “Oh faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?” It is the cry of homesickness. Now, for the first time, Peter could understand the terribleness of such a homesickness. Every man knows that sickness who has ever sensed the reality of God in a moment of adoration. Listen to Paul as he says, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and be with Christ which is far better‑.” Listen to him later when he says, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand . . . . Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness‑‑.” Paul is not just talking. He meant it. He had been caught up and seen things that no man can see and desire to continue living here on this earth any longer. Listen to John call from Patmos, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” It is the passionate cry of a soul craving a better world he has actually seen. Or listen to Peter himself in 2 Peter 3:12, “Looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God.”

These men were eager, passionately eager, for death, the second advent, or anything that would stop for them the scenes of earth and hasten the moment when they were utterly unfolded in the glory of God. They remained here from a sense of duty. They yearn to be gone to something they try to tell us of, but which just won’t describe.

The View from Adoration Mountain

But read these men, walk in mind with them over Galilee’s hills, climb the mount of adoration with them, and you begin to catch it too. The earth grows less important and alluring. A beautiful scene catches the eye and you enjoy it, but not because of what it is so much as what it suggests of a greater beauty in a future earth. You thank God for your loved ones and find a great joy in knowing someday you will love them in a greater, finer way than you are capable of here. And so as you relive the making of the Apostle Peter you begin to find that you too are being remade into a nobler, finer, happier pattern. And this, after all is your greatest reason for being interested in these matters.


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