rev_dr_r_joaquin_willis_web.jpgWhere is it you go to be in the presence of God? Christ went up to Mt. Hermon to be in God’s presence and to consult with God about His life’s direction. He took James, Peter and John with Him for prayer and confirmation and there He received triple approval from Moses, Elijah and God.

There, Christ got direction and decided to accept death on the cross and to head towards that destiny in Jerusalem.

Peter sensed the importance of the moment and said, “Teacher, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three tabernacles – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. (Mark 9:5).

As Peter spoke, a cloud enveloped them. Using a cloud as a tabernacle, God spoke so all could hear Him: “This is my Son whom I love.  Listen to Him!”

Peter’s suggestion of building three different tabernacles was not well conceived. God meant to have one tabernacle among Moses, the law giver, Elijah, the favored prophet, and Jesus, the Courier of the Gospel. God wanted harmony among the law, the prophets and the gospel. All sound Christian preaching acknowledges this and demonstrates it on every teaching occasion.

Christ’s transfiguration was transubstantiation, which is the change of a physical substance from one thing into another while it remains the same. The change in Christ’s human body was so gradual the disciples witnessed it happening while their eyes were still fixed upon Him. They watched as Christ changed from “glory to glory.” His glorious appearance was clear. While He changed, He remained none other than Christ, Himself.

Scripture reveals it was a character weakness in Peter to prefer to be “here” (at Mt. Hermon) in a private communion, with Jesus, Moses, Elijah and God, rather than be in public service to others. When Peter said, “It is good to be here,” he was forgetting the need for Christ to be elsewhere. In fact, in the very next passage (Mark 9: 14-32), the disciples, without Christ, were unable to cure a demon-possessed little boy.

In a discussion coming down the mountain, the disciples were shattered by Jesus’ order: “Tell no one what happened, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” His statements on death and resurrection confused them as they took it figuratively, instead of literally. To the disciples, Christ’s ris- ing from death meant rising from His present lowly estate to the status of a King, which

is what they ex-pected, hoped and waited for. The statement about death not only baffled their minds; it also broke their hearts.

God regularly connects with us through clouds. For instance, it was in a cloud that God gave The Law to Moses (Exodus 19:9). It was in a cloud also that God came to Moses in the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 33:9). And it was in a cloud that God filled the Temple when Solomon dedicated it after it was built (I Kings 8:10).

Biblically speaking, clouds are visions designed to introduce the voice of God. Often we find ourselves in clouds of indecision and often God surrounds us in clouds of confusion as we wonder, “What is God’s direction for our lives?”  In those times, we often find ourselves in God’s presence and don’t even know it.

After God’s message was delivered, the cloud disappeared, Moses and Elijah vanished and only Jesus remained, not transfigured but as He used to be. What did Peter mean when he said, “It is good for us to be here”? Where is the “here” he spoke of?  Good to be here, in tabernacle? Good to be here in communion with Christ? Good to be here near Jesus? Good to be here on top of Mt. Hermon?  Good to be here removed from the troubles of the world? Good to be here alone with Christ? Good to be here with the transfigured Jesus? Good to be here with the saints Moses and Elijah and with Christ?

 I believe “here” is the cloud of God’s presence. It is good to be in the presence of God, where we can clearly hear God’s voice.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or

Photo: THE Rev. DR. R. Joaquin Willis