THREE MEN on a MOUNTAIN

Why did Moses and Elijah disappear when the Father said, “This is my beloved Son?” Why did He not say anything about those two great messengers of God? Is there something more than just the glorification and approval of Jesus in the story of the Transfiguration?

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The gospel reading from Luke 9:28-36 related the event we normally refer to as the Transfiguration.

Jesus took His three closest disciples with Him up on a mountain to pray. While He was praying, His features were changed.

His face and His clothing began to glow a dazzling bright white.

Then Moses and Elijah appear beside Jesus talking with Him about His soon departure.

Then impetuous Peter got all excited and wanted to set up a building to capture and contain the experience. I usually refer to him as Peter Popoff, because he was always popping off at the mouth with whatever came into his mind.

The scripture says that he was just jabbering away and didn‘t have a clue what he was talking about. That was a common experience for this uneducated fisherman whom Jesus loved.

The Father came down in a cloud and yelled at him, the same way Jesus yelled at him just a little earlier for saying He couldn’t die. (We use the term “yelled” whenever someone corrects us—”he yelled at me!”)

While this may look like just another event in the life of Jesus, there are some very important lessons for the disciples—and us—to be found in this account.

Regardless of the lesson, however, there is no doubt that this experience was indelibly imprinted on the minds and memories of the three who went with Jesus. Peter wrote in his second letter—

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
(2Pe 1:16-18)

Notice, though, that Peter does not refer to Moses or Elijah being there. Peter only mentions the fact that they were with Jesus and they heard the voice.

Why do Elijah and Moses suddenly appear to talk with Jesus?

They were like Jesus in several respects. They both disappeared from earth in an unusual manner. They both had to lead God’s people even though they were rejected by those same people.

In their ministry they both suffered a lot; but now they appear in glory. Their lives didn’t end in bitterness and death, but in God’s glorious presence.

Because of their experiences, Elijah and Moses could actually relate to Jesus and encourage him as he faced the way of the cross. Even Jesus’ closest disciples couldn’t be an encouragement to him at this hardest moment in his life, because of their own human desires, but Elijah and Moses could.

But there is something much more important happening here. Moses and Elijah represent two major concepts—the Law and the Prophets.

Moses represents the Law and Elijah represents the Prophets.

Therefore, with Moses and Elijah together we have the Law and the Prophets. This phrase was paramount to the understanding of the Jewish religion.

When Jesus summarized the greatest commandments, He concluded with

On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Mat 22:40)

The Law and the Prophets was the way the Jews referred to their sacred text we call the Old Testament of the Bible.

For them, their entire life was to be guided by what was contained in their Bible.

Filled with more commands than they could possibly learn and obey, Jesus summed up the entire book with the two commandments of love.

He did this because if your focus, your desire, your aim is to love, then you will not need to know each of the rules for living.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Rom 13:10)

With love there is no need to understand or know the law. Love does not violate the law.

Let’s look a little more closely at what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration.

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
(Luk 9:35)

It is instructive that the Father did not say anything about listening to Moses or Elijah—the law and the prophets.

After they heard the voice from the cloud, there was no one there but Jesus.

The law and the prophets were gone.

This is more than a simple story of an event that took place.

God is telling the disciples something here that they did not yet understand, and wouldn’t for many years after Jesus left the earth.

They are being told in symbolic language what Jesus had told them plainly.

“The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.
(Luk 16:16)

The Law and the Prophets had an important part to play in the preparation of the world to receive Jesus. However, when He came, their job was done.

This is what Jesus meant here, and what Paul meant in his letter to the Galatians.

So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,
(Gal 3:24-25)

Now that faith has come, we no longer need someone or something to tell us what to do.

If we still needed the law, Jesus would have made that plain when He told us about the Holy Spirit as a teacher.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (Jn 14:26)

Jesus said nothing about the Holy Spirit helping us to understand, know or memorize the Law and the Prophets.

The reason that Moses and Elijah disappeared before the event was complete was to show that their ministry was no longer necessary.

The Law and the Prophets were part of the Old Covenant, and so was Jesus.

Jesus was a part of the Old Covenant

Read that again. Is that something new or shocking to you?

Jesus was also a part of the Old Covenant as He was bringing in the transition from the old to the new.

This is a very important concept that we so often miss.

One of the reasons we fail to understand is because of the way our Bible is divided.

In our Bibles, the old stops with the end of Malachi, and the New begins with the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contain the stories of Jesus’ life on earth. We see the division as only the Old Testament and New Testament.

The letter to the Hebrews makes it abundantly clear, however, that this is incorrect, and we would do well to understand it.

For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
(Heb 9:16)

We know that the letter to the Hebrews was written to show that Jesus was the mediator of the New Covenant between God and His creation.

Jesus’ death sealed the new covenant as being established.

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Heb 9:15)

Summary

Moses and Elijah had their ministry which was in effect until John.

Jesus brought in a time of transition from the old to the new.

That period of transition officially ended with the crucifixion.

However, we know that it took a few years for it to take effect in the mind of the apostles.

The Transfiguration was an important event in the life of Jesus and the three closest to Him.

It was a signatory event in the full plan of God for mankind.

The Transfiguration was not only about Jesus being glorified in that moment, but was also about the transformation from the old way of seeing things into the new way of understanding.

May God give us eyes to see and ears to hear and a mind that understands the fullness of His love.

Author: Dale Hill

Dale Hill began teaching from the Bible and ministering to God's people more than 50 years ago. From the beginning his focus was on Peter's question, "How should we then live?" (2 Peter 3:11) Now, the richness of a life devoted to serving God and His people is being made available in print form so that many more believers will be able to benefit from Dale's ministry.

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