Do you remember when Jesus led a few of the disciples on a daylong hiking trip? Maybe that description doesn’t jog your memory. But if I told you that Moses and Elijah showed up, too, then you’d instantly realize that I’m talking about the Transfiguration.
This is how Mark records it in his Gospel:
They were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, 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 to say, they were so frightened.) (Mark 9:2-6, NIV)
I’ve heard a lot of sermons about the transfiguration that focus on how silly Peter acts in the midst of two of the most revered men in Hebrew history. But when I read it again more recently, I noticed something very interesting. We all know that Moses is responsible for giving the Hebrews the Ten Commandments and all the Law, the ways of God. And many remember Elijah as the great prophet of God.
What I find so interesting is how Mark records the staging of the event. Christ stands at the center between Moses and Elijah. In that moment we’re given a picture of who Christ is – each of them points to Christ as the fulfillment of their own service. In a way, they are passing the baton to Jesus. And it is Christ who joins and completes in his own person their ministries. But he also transcends them and is not to be confused with them as merely another human servant in the whole line of Israel’s leaders.
To make sure we understood this point, Mark tells us that “a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is My Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’” (Mark 9:7).
The Transfiguration isn’t simply an event in the life of Christ. It’s an invitation to a deeper understanding of his redeeming identity – and our own partnership in his continually atoning grace.
I’m Joseph Tkach, Speaking of LIFE.