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?

Photo by Leo Caldas on Pexels.com

NOTE: For a video of this message, click here.

NOTE: For a podcast of this message, click here.

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.

GOD’S GUARANTEE

What is a guarantee actually worth? It usually costs us time to gain the satisfaction that was promised if the product fails.

There are few things in life besides death and taxes for which there is an absolute guarantee.

We are given some sort of a guarantee on almost everything we purchase, but that guarantee is only for the replacement of the product should the one you purchase be defective in some way.

There is no guarantee that whatever you purchase will do exactly as it was described. The manufacturer only guarantees that they will satisfy you.

Sometimes that may mean more than one exchange, or a long drawn out time of working through the gatekeepers at customer service.

We have become so accustomed to this, that when we are given a guarantee we usually think, “Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard all that before. We’ll see.”

We unwittingly take that same thinking to the word that God speaks.

We give mental assent to its veracity, but we’ve got one foot out the door just in case we get disappointed.

Guarantees just don’t mean much to us anymore.

However, we should not take that attitude with God’s word. When God gives us a guarantee we should be able to trust in, cling to, and rely on that word without question.

Let’s see if we can discover a reason why we may not always do that.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
(Isa 55:10-11)

God puts a guarantee on the process of His word accomplishing that which He purposed with such a word.

He says that it shall accomplish what He wants and succeed in its purpose.

Sometimes we may miss the purpose of something simply because of how we may view it.

For instance, in this passage the word is compared to rain and snow watering the earth. Is that how we normally view precipitation?

Are we not more prone to seeing the negative aspects, the inconvenience of precipitation?

Awww, man. It’s gonna be slick. It’s gonna be muddy. It’s gonna be nasty.

That is certainly one way to look at it.

Why not instead of looking at how it may be an inconvenience, think of how beneficial it may be?

If we could get our grass seed out just before a good snow, how much better would our lawn be?

Rain and snow are quite beneficial to the earth and that is beneficial for us. But it is not an immediate benefit. It takes time.

It is this aspect of a process that we have grown to dislike. We want everything NOW!

Sure. We are okay with the things we KNOW take time, like planting and harvesting; but there are other things to which we may not apply the same thinking.

I believe one of those areas is the effectual working of the word of God.

We want to see immediate results whenever the word of God is shared.

If we are talking with a friend who is a pre-believer, we want them to change their mind right now while we are talking with them. But they seldom do.

Jesus used the analogy of a seed in more than one instance as He tried to show the inner workings of the kingdom of God.

One of the most famous is the parable of the sower and the seed.

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. …Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
(Mat 13:3-8)

We know the story. Seed was scattered everywhere—some on rocky ground, some on thorny ground, some off to the side, and some on good ground.

The disciples asked Jesus to explain the parable to them, so He did.

He said the seed is the word of the kingdom; that is, the word concerning the kingdom.

Whenever we talk with someone about what we know and believe about the Lord, we are sowing words concerning the kingdom. They are seeds that are being planted in their heart.

There is no need for us to try to convince them through any sort of reasoning process, any sort of logic, or whatever.

We just speak truth and let the seed fall where it may.

That is one of the important points of the parable that many miss. Preachers often tell us that we are to go out and prepare the soil in some manner before we can sow the seed.

That makes sense from our perspective of looking on the natural world; but that is not what Jesus said. He said to scatter the seed. Some of what you do will find a good place to rest. Other seed may not.

He said nothing about our being concerned with our sowing. Just sow. Just spread the word, the seed. Scatter it everywhere you can and let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest.

Doing it this way takes away any attachment to outcome you may have. What will be will be; and the sooner you can reconcile yourself to that fact, the easier it becomes to spread the seed of the word.

Sometimes we are not able to tell if the seed is even growing, which is also something to which Jesus alluded.

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.
(Mar 4:26-27)

As humans, we have learned enough in our short time here on earth that we are not to dig up the seed to see how it is doing.

You probably did a project in grade school of putting a lima bean in a glass of water to watch the sprouting process. It only takes about three days for the bean to break open and begin to sprout.

Kids learn about planting and growing from this little exercise. It takes time.

Do we know HOW it happens? Not necessarily. We could find out if we really wanted to know, but most of us just want to see a bean plant come up out of the ground.

Most of us just want to see our friends come into the things of the kingdom like we have.

Give it time.

Some plants may take only three days to germination, but others can take weeks—some even years.

Kingdom growth is no different. Give it time.

There is one other very important aspect of seed growth that Jesus mentioned. This is probably the hardest one for us to accept.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
(Jhn 12:24)

When you put a seed into the ground, as the process of germination begins, the seed looks like it is dying. It gets wrinkled and crumbles and falls apart.

We often see this with someone after we have shared the truths of God’s word with them.

Their life falls apart.

We may see them become mean, angry; or they may become addicted to some life-altering substance. Any number of things which to all outward appearances would indicate everything we tried to do is lost, wasted.

Where is our faith when something like this happens? Are we only able to believe when we see results?

Jesus spoke to this when He showed Himself to Thomas. Thomas wasn’t in the room the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection.

He told them he would not believe unless he could see and touch the risen savior. When Jesus came the next time, He showed Himself specifically to Thomas and said,

“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(Jn 20:29)

Believing without seeing is an important part of an active faith.

In fact, that is the very definition of faith given in Hebrews.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
(Heb 11:1)

Therefore, whenever we share some truth we may understand concerning the kingdom of God, we should not automatically begin looking for results.

That’s what is meant when by the phrase “attachment to outcome.” We are not to have an attachment to any sort of outcome.

Faith believes in the process. In fact, faith KNOWS that the process has begun and there will be a positive outcome.

God says that His word will not fail to accomplish His purposes. It will do the very thing for which it was purposed.

It may take time, which for us may seem interminable, but not so with God.

The Lord told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations before he ever had a child. I’m sure Abraham did what was necessary, but it took Sarah 25 years to conceive Isaac.

God put it on the heart of Moses to set Israel free from Egyptian bondage, but it took 40 years for Moses to give up his attachment to outcome and method for that to take place.

God took 4,000 years to get the earth ready to receive Jesus.

Time is our problem, NOT GOD’S. He inhabits eternity where there is no concept of time. It is always an eternal NOW.

The seed that you may plant in someone’s life could very possibly sprout overnight, but that is not the usual pattern.

Allow for the working of the Holy Spirit to bring forth the fruit in the proper season.

We can operate with the guarantee of God’s word that what you plant will bring forth.

Your ONLY responsibility is to scatter the seed.

You do that every time you make some comment about what you believe.

May the Lord make you aware of your opportunities to send forth the seed He has given you to spread around.