Poor ol’ Peter.
One day Jesus is asking who folks think he is and Peter blurts out that he is the messiah. Jesus’ response is almost one of surprise. You can read between the lines and see his joy at Peter’s “revelation.” I can imagine Peter absolutely beaming with pride.
Less than a week later, the same Peter is devastated. Jesus had just said he has to go to Jerusalem to die; Peter pulls him aside and tells him to quit talking such foolishness. Jesus’ response to him was so quick and sharp –“Get behind me, Satan!”– that Peter’s head was spinning, I can imagine him, shocked look on his face, a dumbfounded “whaaat?” coming out of his mouth and his brain reeling in dismay. “What did I say wrong? I didn’t mean anything negative! I was only trying to help!”
Six days later, Jesus calls him to go up on a hill with his buddies James and John. No explanation, just a “com’ on, lets go.” They no more get to the peak of the hill when Jesus begins to transform into a brilliant being of intense light. Now I don’t know about you, but if I’m with someone and they begin doing a special effects light show in their whole body, I’m going to be a bit freaked. Ditto with Pete.
To make things even more interesting, suddenly Moses and Elijah show up and start having a chitchat with Jesus. You need to understand that for Pete, Jim and John this wasn’t just a gathering of folks at the local coffee house. These were the biggest, most important, “baddest” heroes of the Jewish nation. Since little kids this trio of fishermen had been told the exploits of these two giants; they’d played Moses and Pharoah or Elijah and Jezebel like we used to play cowboys and indians. Moses and Elijah always whupped up on Pharoah and Jezebeel and everybody would argue about who could be Moses and who had to be Jezebel.
Imagine Davy Crockett and Elvis showing up at your front door one Sunday morning. Freak city, right?
He begins to babble about building little huts, which makes no sense to us, but to him was a big deal. Pete heard Jesus say about a week earlier that some who were standing there wouldn’t die before the Messiah –whom he’d already pegged– would come in power; now he sees Jesus in all His glory. He must have been thinking, “Dang! This is it! The Kingdom is about to blow into existence!” Pete probably remembered, tucked away in his childhood sabbath school memories, that Zechariah said that in the kingdom the people would celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles*.
If he was freakin’ at that point, the talking glory cloud that floated in must have pushed him over the edge!
He and his two buddies do a face dive into the ground and probably came close to losing control of their bladders. I would have!
Then, just like that, Jesus is tapping them on the shoulder saying, “Get up, lets go.” And he threw in, “By the way, don’t tell anyone what you saw until after I’m raised from the dead.”
Do you suppose that Peter felt like he was tripping around in the Twilight Zone?
*The Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated every year by the Jews; it commemorated the wilderness wandering of the people until they settled in the promised land. They would build little shelters and live under them for a week. They’d only come out of them after the seven days and have a really big party to celebrate. The seven day festival not only commemorated the temporary wandering of the people in the wilderness, but was symbolic for the culmination of all the promises of God — the coming of the Kingdom. So poor ol’ Peter, terrified, thinks of this from his teaching in sabbath school and blurts out, “lets build the shelters because the Kingdom has arrived!”