Focus Checkup: Is it the Tabernacle or the Lord?
Imagine walking in the footsteps of Peter, Jesus’ disciple. The Lord calls you, along with John and James, to follow Him for a walk up a high mountain trail. Running through your mind are Jesus’ recent conversations about suffering and dying at the hands of the religious rulers.
Get behind me, Satan! The words Jesus spoke to you last week are blistering your soul. He said you’re not “mindful about the things of God, but the things of men.”
You don’t quite understand why Jesus rebuked you so harshly. Jesus constantly preaches about the coming of His kingdom, and now He’s talking about dying. How can the kingdom come if He dies?!?
By the time you reach Jesus’ destination, you’re tired, so you scrape away some stones with your foot to smooth out a spot to lounge. As usual, Jesus walks a little distance away and settles into conversation with God, whom He calls His Father. You marvel at the mystery of this fellowship. Moses talked to God like that, you remember. But Moses had to go to the tabernacle to speak, where the cloud of God’s presence hovered. Jesus is different.
Such thoughts meander around your mind until you lay back and dose off into a fitful nap… Behind your dreaming a light emerges and grows brighter. Did the sun come out from behind the mountain? Was it morning already? You open your eyes and realize it’s not the sun. It’s Jesus. Is this a dream? You shield your eyes and stand. James stands beside you, and John kneels. No, this is not a dream. This is real life.
Your heart beats hard. Your bones tremble with both fear and excitement. Yes! The true, Son of the Living God! King of glory! His kingdom come right here, on this mountain. And to think, Jesus chose me—ME—to witness the rise of His kingdom!
Two other figures, shining like Jesus, stand beside Him, talking with Him. It couldn’t be! Moses? Elijah? You hear them talk about a departure, something that Jesus was going to do in Jerusalem.
No, your thoughts cry. Departure can’t mean death. Not after this! It has to mean He’s setting up His kingdom, right here, right now.
You hear a different voice. Yes, it’s your own voice. The words fall out of your mouth before they cycle through your brain. But it’s too late to stop them. They’re out. Lord, it is good for us to be here! If You wish, let’s make here three tabernacles, one for You, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and…
Before you finish divulging your plan, Jesus, Moses and Elijah are all three swallowed up in a blinding cloud of light. A sound like thunder shakes your bones. You fall flat down with your face to the ground as these words rumble:
This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!
I’m sure that whenever Peter remembered this scene, he praised Christ for forgiving him, and he laughed at how blind he’d been, before the Spirit of God baptized and transformed him. But even after that, some of the old “tabernacle fever” came over Peter. Remember when Paul had to correct Peter for refusing to eat with the Gentile believers, because he feared what the Jewish believers, who still followed the law rather than grace, would say?
It’s not about pleasing people or whether or not they look up to us. That path only leads to frustration, pain and an unsatisfied soul. Oh, how often we busy ourselves trying to build good Christian tabernacles that look great to others, but we miss the whole point of what Jesus came to do. We’re not “mindful about the things of God, but the things of man.” He doesn’t need our tabernacles. He yearns for relationship and partnership with us!
Over the centuries, the Spirit has given times of refreshing—fresh revelation from His Word, or healing, or revival, or reformation. But sometimes instead of it driving us closer to relationship with Christ, we package it as another tabernacle, or denomination, or movement. It happens in our everyday lives too. The Lord gives us strength and beauty and talents, and instead of it drawing us closer to Him, we yearn for others see us as strong, or beautiful or talented. Or, we avoid that trap by being so humble that we’re proud of our humility. All just tabernacles.
What is the cure for our folly? There’s only one, and that’s what the Father told Peter: Listen to My beloved Son!
It’s about relationship, knowing Him, fellowshipping with Christ in listening prayer, scripture and other believers. It’s not about how strong or beautiful we can build our tabernacles, but how we reflect Christ’s strength and beauty as we spend time and build with Him. He will teach us to build tabernacles for His kingdom, strong and beautiful, effective and bearing eternal fruit—His way and timing that brings His peace and joy.
Back on the mountain with Peter, flat on his face and terrified. The cloud and thunder fade. Jesus touches Peter’s shoulder and says, “Arise, and do not be afraid.”
Matt 16:21- 17:9; 11:28-29; Mark 8:31-9:10; Luke 9:1-35; Acts 3:19; Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18
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