Given recent news, you might question whether now is a good time for us be up the mountain or the altar steps contemplating divine light.
Yet Peter, James and John were no strangers to persecution themselves, and still they thought that the glory of God they saw in Jesus was invaluable: worth their lives, in the end.
This is because they knew what they saw, from their own Jewish tradition. From 16 October this year, if you go into Hendon, you will see tents in many people’s gardens, out for the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkoth, where the Jewish people will camp for a week in memory of God’s command to them to set up tents in the desert during the Exodus. The “roughly eight days” that Luke mentions at the beginning of his account of the Transfiguration (Lk 9.28) was that very week of the Feast of Tabernacles. This is why Peter offers to set up tents for Moses and Elijah, too, when he sees them with Jesus. They are at the final day of the Feast, and Peter sees Jesus bringing it to a dramatic culmination. But he knows, too, that the Feast of Tabernacles is not just the remembrance of a past event, but like all Jewish festivals, foreshadows also a hope for the future: in this case, the future dwelling of the just in God. When Moses and Elijah vanish in the cloud, Peter knows that the need for tents is over: in Christ, the promise has been fulfilled. The Kingdom is revealed, here and now.
Anglican priest Fr Tom Plant grasps the significance of Peter's words in Luke 9 as fulfilling the Feast of the Tabernacles. Whenever I have heard Evangelicals preach on this passage, they always end up saying that St. Peter was saying something stupid or carnal, completely missing the Old Testament background.