Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
This post is about the Transfiguration passages (see Mathew 17:1-12, Mark 9:2-13 and Luke 9:29-36). I believe that these are some of the most important New Testament passages connecting Jesus to the fulfillment of the prophesy in Deut 18. The accounts vary slightly but the central thrust is clear. Moses and Elijah appear and by their coming validate the expectations of the Old Testament connected with both. When Peter wants to preserve the occasion, God intervenes. God declares that Jesus is His Son, His chosen one. And he commands the disciples (who would hold onto prophets of old) to listen (or hearken) to Jesus. Early Friends and the early Church took this as a primary imperative. There was no alternative. No compromise. It echoes the repeated injunctions by Jesus in the book of John to believe (hearken to) Him. And as in John, the words of God spoken from the cloud clearly echo the injunction to hearken to the Prophet in Deut. 18.
The accounts in Mathew and Mark record a conversation afterwards between Jesus and the disciples. They want to know how Elijah fits in all this. Jesus references the clear promise at the end of Malachi that Elijah will be sent before the Day of the Lord. Then he says that the coming of Elijah is fulfilled in John the Baptist. This connection is drawn in other NT passages also (see Math. 11: 14 and Luke 1:17 and 78). The Malachi passage is apocalyptic in scope and tone. By connecting Elijah to John, Jesus also implies that he fulfills the prophecy of the sun of righteousness that brings healing.
This is not in any of those texts, but I believe that I have had an opening about another reason Elijah is in the Transfiguration scene. When Moses goes up Mt. Sinai the encounter is great and terrible and the people are filled with fear at its outward manifestation of storm, earthquake and fire (see Ex 19 and 33). When Elijah goes up Mt Horeb (aka Sinai), the situation is different. The outward manifestations of storm and earthquake are there but key to finding God is the still small voice (see 1 Kings 19).
The passage in Luke says that Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus about his departure. In the subsequent account Jesus relays this to the disciples, who are filled with grief and loss. How were they to hear Jesus if he was leaving? In the last post, I noted that the later passages in the book of John address this very question. Early Friends and the early church saw that the expectations of the Messiah were connected with the Suffering servant of Isaiah. The suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus made possible the outpouring of the Spirit that was given to this One without limit. The one who stops ears and steals the Seed is dealt a mortal blow. The Prophetic experience of keeping to that still small voice becomes available to all.
At the end of Deuteronomy, the Song of Moses is one of despair; when he leaves the people will not (even cannot) stay faithful. In the coming of the prophet like Moses whose Spirit is greater, the injunction in Duet 30:11-20 becomes possible. Life can be chosen.
Add a Comment