Introducing, Moses and Elijah

Today’s gospel about the Transfiguration is one of my favorites. Jesus takes Peter and a couple of the other apostles to a mountain for a big unveiling. Suddenly his garments become brilliantly white and two of the most famous figures in Jewish history magically appear, none other than Moses and Elijah.

That crazy Peter, as usual, gets excited and overreacts.

“We must build three booths,” Peter says to Jesus, “one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Some gospels use the word “tents” instead of booths, but they’re the same thing back in the old country. Either way, Jesus tells Peter to cool it, to curb the enthusiasm, so to speak.

I’ve got no problem with this story except for this one critical little detail. Who did the introductions? Somebody had to say, “Peter, I would like you to meet Moses and Elijah.” How else would he know who they were? They were legends of Jewish history, but they had been dead for hundreds of years. Peter had no idea what they looked like. There were no photographs in those days. Paintings and drawings were rare. Peter was a humble fisherman and he would not have had access to any vintage sketches.

How did he know? Every year about this time I walk out of church asking the same question. I have pursued this with many brilliant theologians. None has an answer. I guess it’s one of those mysteries of faith. I may bring this up again when I write my religion book. I’m fiddling with titles such as, “Tell Him to Wipe That Smirk Off His Face.”

Look out for lightning. Stay tuned.

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