The disciples seem to have a sleeping disorder. Every time Jesus asks them to wait with him while he goes off alone, they doze off. Do you remember that this will happen later in the garden of Gethsemane? Here Peter, John, and James have trouble staying awake and almost miss an amazing event. If we imagine the story, we might assume that the groggy disciples wake up when Jesus begins glowing and two men suddenly appear with him. At first they may have wondered if they are dreaming. How can this be real?
Overall the disciples do not come off well in this story, but they do understand the significance of what they witness. We as believers have received a rich inheritance. Moses represents for them, as for us, one who obeyed God’s call despite overwhelming odds, led the people to freedom, and received the commandments that told God’s people how to live. Elijah, a great prophet, spoke out against oppression and dared to challenge corrupt rulers. God worked powerfully through both these men. We, inheritors of their faith, follow the same God who empowered them. We stand in their shadows and on their shoulders.
In our modern world we can easily lose sight of our past and the legacy handed down to us, but the disciples hold this fact firmly in mind. The writer of Hebrews speaks of the “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounds us (12:1). Here the disciples catch a fleeting glimpse of those witnesses. What life experiences afford us glimpses of that great cloud?
Lord, I thank you for the many faithful women and men who have passed on the faith generation after generation so that eventually the gospel might come to me. Empower me to run my part of the race and to become part of the cloud of witnesses for others. Amen.