Usually the disciples had been hearing from Jesus. He had taught and mentored them. The lessons had been in parables and some of them explained. At the top of this mountain Peter became confused and his errant, but steadfast hope unto an earthly kingdom shone through again. It was to melt the iron-bound grip of this misplaced hope that God the Father gave them an instruction.
5 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.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”(Mark 9:5-13–ESV)
Peter liked the mountain-top
Peter is confused, but often drunkenness loosens lips revealing the deeper things. He wanted to stay on the Mountain. Probably, he hoped that this might be the start of this thing he’d always hoped for.
A.B. Bruce said that Peter was of a mind to enjoy the benefits of heaven without any preliminary process of cross-bearing. That is not unnatural. How many of us wish that the calm before the storm could stay forever? We love the comfortable weather of the springtime and the fall, but the crosses of summer and winter we are far less fond of. But, the coolness of fall and the warmth of spring are known most clearly by the heat of summer and winter’s cold.
The happiness of heaven does not come without the heaviness of the cross.
Bruce goes on to propose the thoughts of Peter as noted below:
“How much better to abide up here with the saints than down below amidst unbelieving captious Pharisees and miserable human beings, enduring the contradiction of sinners, and battling with the manifold ills wherewith the earth is cursed! Stay here, my Master, and you may bid goodby to all those dark forebodings of coming sufferings, and will be beyond the reach of malevolent priests, elders, and scribes. Stay here, on this sun-lit, heaven-kissing hill; go no more down into the depressing, sombre valley of humiliation. Farewell, earth and the cross: welcome, heaven and the crown!”
Of course Peter was dazed and so we may in embarrassment want to discard it. We must not forget that dazed utterances may be rather accurate representations of our thoughts. The daze takes off our mouth filters. With those filters gone we are prone to saying the things we think.
Peter was still hoping for the mountain top
It may seem odd for Peter to raise the issue of Elijah on the way down from the mountain. I have always felt it out of place and felt that it needed explaining in prophetic terms, but Peter’s outlook is not that complex. He was trying to fit the scene into what he had hoped for the future. It is also natural to fit what we say to that which we hope. It is as though Peter is saying, “Jesus, maybe that is what the scribes meant. Elijah comes first (up there on the mountain) and then you.” Elijah’s arrival with Moses in tow was the beginning of the great rebirth of Israel.
Hopefully the cross dodging notions are seen here. It is good, also, not to forget that not long before this Jesus had rebuked Peter as Peter tried to discard the cross. It was endemic and powerful; Peter was dominated. Neither Satan nor the disciples, nor even Jesus wanted the cross. Notwithstanding the desires of so many God ordered the cross and Jesus would submit to it. What God has put together let not any man (or devil) attempt to put asunder.
“Hear him” – God’s admonition to accept Christ’s cross
Peter was to stop. The disciples were to pour energy into the understanding of the cross. It was a mystery, but mysteries are not bad. Jesus was explaining the steps that were coming. The disciples were not to fight against his revelations.
Even angels had longed to look into the mysteries being revealed by Christ at that stage. Now that those mysteries were unfolding they were not to fear, to rush or to challenge them.
“Hear Him” – God’s admonition to accept their cross
The thing for humanity was to accept that they, too, had a cross to bear. Jesus taught that. The disciples were not to grow weary of the labors of this life as if to lay them down before the appointed time. The disciples were not to dream of heaven and be of no earthly good. They and we are to do our part while earth is under our feet. God said to Peter, James and John to hear the words of Jesus and then live them.