The great need just now was not simply for men who would be loving and loyal, but men who would be leaders
. It has ever been the sorest need. Men are not so scarce, true-hearted men, willing to endure sacrifice, but leaders
have always been few, and are. Nothing seems to be less understood than leadership; and nothing so quickly recognized when the real thing appears. Peter was
a leader among these men. He had dash and push. He was full of impulse. He was always proposing something. He acted as spokesman. He blurted out whatever came. The others followed his lead. There were the crude elements of leadership here. But not true leadership of the finer, higher kind.
The whole purpose of the transfiguration was to get and tie up leaders. It was an emergency measure, out of the regular run of things. Goodness makes character. It takes goodness plus ability to make true leadership. The heart can make a loving follower. It takes a heart, warm and true, plus brains to make a leader. Character is the essential for life. For true leadership, there needs to be character plus ability: the ability to keep the broad sweep of things, and not be lost in details, nor yet to lose sight of details; to discern motive and drifts; to sift through the incidentals which may be spectacular and get to the essential which may be in Quaker garb.
There are two sorts of leadership, of action, and of thought. By comparison with the other, leaders of action are many, leaders of thought few. Peter was the leader in action of the disciples, and in the earlier church days. John became the leader in thought of the later years of the early church. Paul was both, a very unusual combination. Leaders are born, it is true. But the finest and truest and highest leaders must be both born leaders, and then born again as leaders. There needs to be the original stuff, and then that stuff hammered into shape under hard blows on the anvil of experience. The fire must burn out the clay and dirt, and then the hammer shape up the metal. Leaders must have convictions driven in clear through the flesh and bone, and riveted on the other side.
Simon loved Jesus, but there needed to be more before Peter would arrive. It took the transfiguration to put into the impulsive, unsteady, wobbling Simon the metal that would later become steel in Peter. Yet it took much more, and finally the fire of Pentecost, to get the needed temper into the steel. These same lips could give that splendid statement that has become the church's foundation; and, a bit later, utter boldly foolish, improper words to Jesus; and, later yet, utter vulgar profanity, and words far worse, aye, the worst that could be said about a friend, and in that friend's need, too.
This was a fair sample of the clay and iron, the Simon and the Peter in this man. Yet it was with painful slowness that he had been brought up to where he is now. Two years of daily contact with Jesus. Slow work! No, rapid work. Nobody but Jesus could have done it in such a short time. Nobody but Jesus could have done it at all. And, mark you keenly, this man is the leader of the band of men that stand closest to Jesus. This is the setting of the great transfiguration scene.