And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Mt 17:2-5)
The account of the transfiguration is one of my favourites. There is so much in there that is relevant for us, for when we come together into God's presence.
We come at an invitation. We come to fall down and worship the glorified Jesus. We come to hear the testimony of all the Scripture, the law and the prophets that testify about him. We come to have our gaze fixed once again away from all the other distractions, and upon Christ himself. But most of all, we come to hear the voice from heaven!
The Church (the assembly of the called-out people of God) is the place where God still speaks.
Peter, when he makes reference to this awesome event says this:
For when he received honour and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. (2Pe 1:17-18)
But he doesn't stop there. He goes onto say something quite remarkable!
And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2Pe 1:19)
Something more sure than the audible voice of God from the mountain top in front of the manifest glory of Christ!?
Yes, for Peter, and for us, the voice from heaven was not just a past event he looked back to, but a confident expectation he had whenever the church assembled. The prophetic word - the voice from heaven through mouths on earth. The ongoing voice of God speaking in the midst of his people is the assurance of his presence with us. Our God is a God who speaks. It is inconceivable that he could turn up and remain silent.
Peter gives no indication that this was something confined to his mountain top experience, nor even something confined to the Scriptures (the prophetic writings which he goes on to discuss in verses 20 and 21) but an ongoing experience that is needed and should be present in the church until "the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." That is, until Christ's return.
I have great admiration for Peter. Many seek to put him down. They speak of his lack of faith when the started to sink - but this was a man who walked upon the waves of the sea with God! They speak of how he blurted out when he should have remained silent - but this is a man who heard the audible voice of God from the cloud of glory!
Jesus liked Peter too. Sure he often got things wrong, but he was always willing to step up and step out, and I think at the end of the day, that was the quality that Jesus was looking for the most.
It's easy to remain silent in the gathering of the Church. It's easy to think of all the many, sometimes valid, reasons why you shouldn't step up and speak out. But the voice from heaven comes now, as it did then, in response to those who speak up on earth.