How strangely confused Peter was is evident by his suggestion. Imagine making tabernacles for Moses and Elijah, to say nothing of the Master. Had he said, "Let us stay here and make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for me, and one for James and John," it would have had more of reason in it. What did Moses and Elijah want with tabernacles? The word tabernacle simply means a booth, or boughs made into a shelter for present use. Peter's suggestion was that he should go to the trees and bear back boughs with which to construct three temporary resting-places. Think of Moses sojourning in a tabernacle or Elijah settling down to rest in a booth. The whole suggestion is bizarre. "He knew not what to answer," and for him, as for all men in like circumstances, it were infinitely better to say nothing. He had lost the sense of the spiritual, and his mind, moving wholly within the realm of material things, imagined that the spirits of the just made perfect could find shelter in tabernacles constructed of boughs.
There was, however, a darker side to the mistake of Peter. When he suggested building three tabernacles - one for the Master, one for Moses, and one for Elijah - he seems to have been forgetful of his own confession made but eight days before. Jesus had asked, "Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?" and had received the reply, "Some say John the Baptist, some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." Then, in answer to His second question, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter had placed his Lord in a position far higher than that of Elijah, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Yet now he suggests making a tabernacle for Jesus, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah, thus putting his Master upon the same level with these men of the past.
The mistake is by no means an obsolete one. Men are still attempting to make tabernacles, one for Christ, one for Confucius, one for Buddha. Beware of such blasphemy.
Adapted from The Crises of the Christ, Book IV, Chapter XVIII, by G. Campbell Morgan.