And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
Have you ever wondered why it was that Moses and Elijah showed up to talk to Jesus? Why not David or Isaiah or even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? I think it is for a very good reason and that reason is that they are not dead. This is clearly the case for Elijah. He was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind in II Kings 2. Moses is a little more complicated. It does say that he “died” at the end of Deuteronomy, but when you get into the details, things get a little odd. He climbed the mountain, and Deuteronomy simply says that God buried him, and no one ever found his tomb up there. It could be that he died there. But I think, because he is standing here by Elijah, that Deuteronomy reflects the pious conjecture of those who wrote the final chapter of that book. He was really old, he climbed a mountain and never came back down. He must have died up there.
I think God took both Moses and Elijah because he wanted them to stand here, centuries later, that they could have this conversation with Jesus. Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. From this mountain the narrative of Jesus life rushes headlong into the events of Holy Week. Moses had written about a seed of Adam and Eve who would liberate us from Satan’s bondage, but it would come at a cost. Elijah had proclaimed God’s judgment and mercy. I think Jesus, remember He is human and divine, needed this conversation, a pep-talk from these ancient men.
I also think Peter, James, John, and you and I needed to see this shining Jesus engaged in this conversation. We see it through their eyes and behold what Jesus really is. His face shone like the sun and his clothes were as white as light itself. We also need to peel the wrapping back a little to behold the Jesus who is yet to be seen by us. The day comes when we will behold this Jesus. John tells us we will be able to see Him as He is, because we will be like Him. See this Jesus through the eyes of Peter, James, and John and marvel at what God is doing to you.