Luke 9:28-43 NIV
28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.
Why Moses and Elijah?
Elijah was expected to appear as a precursor to the Messiah. This appearance was expected to happen before the Messiah arrived on the scene. So, the idea was this, the prophet Elijah or someone in the spirit of Elijah appears to announce the imminent arrival of a child who would grow to become king. The king would mature, take up his throne, expel the Romans and rebuild David’s kingdom to its original glory. All kings of Israel were its messiahs; a human representative imbued with divine authority to represent God on earth and to rule Israel on his behalf. This divine rule also confirmed the messiah as king and political head of the nation.
So here is Elijah, but appearing at an unexpected time. The announcement is not as previously thought. It’s an announcement about The King of kings and his appearance in Glory, on the mountain, at his coronation and ultimately in the glorious exercise of all authority in heaven and earth.
Point of Interest: The Gospel of John is explicit about Jesus’ coronation being his, ‘lifting up’ to the cross. He was also crucified under the banner, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’. You may have noticed the ‘INRI’ banner over some crucifixes. INRI are the Latin letters for, ‘Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum’. The English ‘J’ is pronounced as a ‘Y’ and written as an ‘I’, as in Ian. [Ian and Jan (Yan) are versions of John, which are all diminutives of the Hebrew Johanan, but you already knew that.]
Jesus is the architype of many ‘types’ in the Old Covenant. An architype is the ultimate and perfect representation of any ‘type’ of person in a particular role. For example, prophets, priests and kings are all theological types of people that represent and serve God.
Moses was a ‘type’ of prophet and leader of Israel, but Jesus is the architype. Jesus is The Prophet among prophets, The Priest among priests and The King over all kings. Jesus is the ultimate and perfect representative of the Father and the Spirit. He is The Leader of the new exodus. Jesus is the true King who leads you and me out of the land of death and despair into the glorious light of new beginnings. Jesus is your exit from your old dead self into your true self as Father intended you to be. A kind of architype of yourself, as Christ lives in you and you live in him (John 17:22,23).
Point of Interest: The word in our text, translated as ‘departure’ is, in the NT Greek, exodus. This is to connect us and the Transfiguration to Israel’s beginnings with Moses and Mt. Sinai and the giving of the Law. Also it is to lead us into the new exodus.
Exodus is also the English title of the second book of the Hebrew Bible. The titles in English are derived from the titles in the Septuagint or Latin Bible. The actual Hebrew names of the Hebrew bible are often derived from the first word or phrase of the book. For example, Genesis is ‘Berasheeth’; ‘In the Beginning’.
God’s plan has always been for you to be your best possible self but please note, you have very little to do with it. Jesus redeemed his creation and has given us eternity and he is redeeming our broken down old self today. All Jesus requires of us in this world is that we choose to trust him as he transforms us by the renewal of our being (Romans 12:2 – please note the Greek word psyche can be translated as either ‘mind’ or ‘soul’. ‘Being’ or ‘your whole being’ is better, as ‘being’ encompasses head and heart, body and soul – your whole self which is the intent of psyche).
Lightening and ‘glorious splendour’
What a sight the disciple’s must have been confronted with. Jesus face changed! It was him but he looked different. I’m guessing he looked like the man Mary Magdalene mistook for a gardener. The resurrected Jesus.
His clothes, not only became ‘as white as white can be’ (this is not an advertisement for a heavenly laundry product, a similie I have heared before), but they became as brilliant and as hard on the eyes as a prolonged lightning strike. Jesus was radiating the glory of God that Moses had witnessed on Mt. Sinai. Prolonged exposure had meant that Moses’ face radiated God’s glory, even when he had descended from the mountain.
Consider: What implications could this have for those who choose to dwell in the presence of God daily, day after day? Could it be, that for those who reside in God’s presence daily, there is a real possibility that his brilliance, his person, his presence, could radiate from you?
Consider, how that radiant presence, his glory emanating from you, could transform you from your old disagreeable self into someone as lovingly radiant as Jesus? Could this radiance, through the new you, heal relationships? Build and restore intimacy? Establish God’s Kingdom among your family and friends and extend out to the boundaries to those who haven’t met Jesus yet? Wow! Just imagine!
Consider: No, really imagine! Do it in Jesus presence and he will guide and sanctify your thoughts, dreams and visions. Prayer is a conversation. Conversation invites union. Converse with Father about the universe of possibilities waiting in his supersubstantial glory for the new you.
Point of Importance: The word ‘daily’ in the ‘daily bread’ of the Lord’s Prayer is a most unusual word in the Greek of the NT. It only appears in the Gospels in the Lord’s prayer and no where else. It is also a peculiar word as it does indeed mean, ‘daily’ but it translates also as ‘super substantial’. St. Augustine connected the ‘super substantial’ of our daily bread to the bread of life that is Jesus in Holy Communion. So, is it unreasonable to have faith that, as we dwell in the written Word and in the living Word, we should take on the glory of the one who dwells in us?
32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
This requires some context. I mean, ‘they became fully awake’, really?! The lightening white clothes, His changing face, dead men walking (Elijah and Moses)! I think the wake up was like the fire alarm going off just as you are dozing off. An adrenaline charged, jump out of your skin kind of wake up.
But ……. wait for it …….. they had been praying. If you recall, they will fall asleep again as Jesus is praying just before his arrest. There is something that makes a person doze off in prayer. That’s reassuring isn’t it? It’s not just you.
It seems though, that the Glory of God can move us from the death like quality of sleep to fully alert in less than a moment.
Point of Importance: It is not uncommon to get a little dozy when praying. This is a thing to be wary of and something to be pleased about.
If it happens every time we pray, it’s an indication that our old dead flesh and the devil have teamed up to distract us. If the actual distractions of busy-ness, technology, stress and ‘issues’ aren’t enough, sleep will become the distraction. Sleep in these circumstances, is our old nature doing anything to escape the conversation; the union with God. It’s not unlike a married couple who tune out of a conversation. The flesh and the devil want to ruin that intimacy as well. Let’s face it, achieving a satisfying level of intimacy and knowledge of another person is often hard emotional and spiritual work.
When not practicing avoidance techniques and deep in conversation, it can also be an utter joy to fall asleep in the arms of Father.
33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)
Consider: Is there anything in Moses and Elijah ‘leaving’, do you think?
I believe this is the departure of the Old Covenant and the advent of the new. Moses and Elijah also represent The Law and The Prophets. Jesus is the New Covenant in flesh and blood. As the old steps back, the new is revealed.
Three shelters and uninformed speech
The three shelters were for Jesus, Elijah and Moses in celebration of Israel entering the promised land. The Festival of Booths (Sukkot in Hebrew) is celebrated between the end of September and October each year as part of the harvest festival and as a remembrance of the Exodus and entry into God’s land of abundance. So, let me point out that Peter, even in his dazed state of awareness, knew exactly what he was talking about. His well-prepared mind went straight to his well understood religious heritage. I guess his thoughts went something like this, ‘Elijah has arrived, the messiah must be nearby, maybe it’s Jesus after all? Moses is here too, Moses is here, right, …….. Exodus, …… promised land ….. shelters!’
He knew something and his training was leading him in the right direction but the booths were quite unnecessary because this wasn’t a nostalgic vision harping back to the old Exodus or to the promise of a political messiah. This is a vision of the ultimate and perfect Messiah who is preparing to lead his people, of all times and all places, into the New Exodus. The exodus or exit, if you like, from death and despair into a new life and eventually to a New Earth. Peter got the references right but missed the point entirely.
34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone.
Moses is encompassed by a cloud as he approached God on Mt. Sinai. Israel was led by a cloud by day for forty years in the wilderness. Jesus and the disciples are engulfed by a cloud at his Transfiguration and later, when Jesus departs this world to ascend to his throne he is hidden by a cloud. No coincidence, I think. Luke means us to understand that these clouds are the presence of God in his hidden glory.
Moses climbed Sinai alone and entered God’s presence alone because Israel were terrified. Moses saw the back of God as he passed by but he could not look into the face of God without being taken from this world. The three disciples are brought into the cloud and the presence of all-powerful God and despite their terror, were blessed. The glory of the Father, who was in the cloud blessed them by conversing with them and so uniting them with Jesus and his mission. The Father trusted these men and demonstrated it by speaking with them.
‘They found that Jesus was alone’, is a statement of faith in Jesus as God, as saviour, as the new covenant in flesh and blood.
Consider: St. Paul was the first to refer to the Sinai covenant as ‘old’. The word ‘old’ in the Greek means ‘archaic’ or an historic artefact. An ‘artefact’, spoken from the mouth of God, but spoken for a time and purpose that has now been superseded by the new thing God did in Jesus Christ. Jesus said that the command to love God, neighbour and self, summed up Moses and Elijah (The Law and the prophets). We have also seen that Jesus himself is the New Covenant. A real and substantial expression of God’s love in action. As someone God has redeemed through Jesus and who is being daily renewed and transformed through God’s love, are you able to ask yourself, as evidence of that transformation, ‘What does love require of me today?’
Point of Interest: It is said that Moses would die if he came face to face with God in all his glory. I believe this is a most misunderstood text. It sounds like a threat from our side of eternity. Death is such a threatening concept. It raises fear in most people, terror in so many others. When we think of God’s presence killing Moses our own fear of death and ignorance of our own immortality terrifies and appals us.
Let’s take another possible view. What if Moses death at the sight of God simply meant that his old mortal, sinful self couldn’t survive the encounter. What if, seeing God in all his glory meant he could not drag himself from that glorious place. Would your soul want to return? Could you drag yourself away from that glory? Would you want to?
If we are convinced that Jesus is our saviour and that eternal life is his gift to us, then perhaps this explains the longing many feel for their eternal home. The heart wants, what the heart wants. The heart that longs for Jesus, longs for eternal life. The transformed heart knows that the glory of God is in us now and eternity has begun.
The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
Jesus time had not yet come, so the right moment to share this story hadn’t yet arrived. Besides, let’s be real, reporting this story too soon would be like telling all your friends that you had just survived an alien abduction. Who would believe that you had just seen Jesus glorified?
37 The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38 A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40 I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.” 41 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” 42 Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.
The disciples represented the old and present Israel at the transfiguration and demonstrated their ignorance and fear just as the crowd does in this section of the text. Jesus, angry at the damage of sin, death and the power of the devil, is in torment at the suffering of his people and appalled by their ignorance of the things of God. He is frustrated at the damage done and longs for the redemption of his creation at the cross and for the transformation that will follow. He can see the end game is coming and is eager to bring resolution to his mission.
This part of the text is also the physical evidence of what we have just witnessed at the transfiguration. It is a concrete example of the glory of God at work. Only God can command his angels, even those that went horribly wrong; the demons. God, in Jesus, casts them out. The boy was thrown to the ground and we can suppose, injured in the process. Jesus heals him. God is the ultimate healer; the architype. This demonstration caught the people’s attention and through it they witnessed the glory of God, even though they didn’t yet understand it.
Consider: We have the benefit of hindsight over them. How does this knowledge transform you today?
Christians have been baptised into Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is in us and we are in him. Take every advantage of that relationship and choose to live eternally, beginning today.
Consider: Father, I am in you and you are in me. Renew me today. Let’s begin the transformation journey, one day at a time, but every day following.
I was asked to write a devotion for the Australian Lutheran magazine about ‘Renewal’. As that is very much a topic connected to The New Exodus and your Exit into Glory. It can be found through this link: https://soakintheriver.wordpress.com