If the mountain in this story is Mount Hermon, as many believe, it requires a long climb, probably high enough to where there may be snow on the ground. When they reach the top, Jesus begins to pray intensely. His friends are exhausted, perhaps as a result of the climb or simply the altitude.
Then the three are made fully awake by a dazzling light. Jesus is literally glowing. And it is not just his face, as it was with Moses. Even Jesus’ clothes become “as bright as a flash of lightning” (niv).
Two men are with Jesus—Moses and Elijah. Why these two? Often in the New Testament you will hear the Old Testament referred to as “the Law and the Prophets.” Moses represents the Law and Elijah represents the Prophets. Their presence symbolizes Jesus’ continuity with the ancient traditions and his fulfillment of their prophecies.
Moses and Elijah speak with Jesus “about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem” (niv). They speak of his soon and certain death. Then God’s voice resounds, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” At the risk of assuming too much about the mind of Jesus, perhaps our Lord will remember these words, an echo of the words from heaven at his baptism, during his imminent suffering. The pleasure of the Father might encourage the Son.
That experience on the mountaintop means a great deal to Peter for the rest of his life. He later recalls: “We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Pet. 1:18). Perhaps, during times of intense persecution, Peter remembers that night on a mountain when his Lord shone like the sun.
God, remind me that you take pleasure in me as your child. Help me to experience your grace so deeply that my heart may be strengthened when I am tested. Amen.
God’s glory is always revealed, even if never completely. When Moses encounters God on the mountain, his face undergoes a physical transformation as a reflection of God’s greater glory. The psalmist reminds us of how great God is and how even Moses and Aaron bow before God’s throne. Paul refers to the story of Moses, but because of Christ, God’s glory is now more openly revealed. There is no need to wear a covering as Moses did, for Christ reflects openly the divine radiance. Luke recounts the Transfiguration, when the face of Jesus, like that of Moses, begins to shine. God’s voice reinforces the revelation of the Transfiguration, declaring Jesus to be God’s Son and the revelation of God’s glory.
Read Exodus 34:29-35. Consider the ways you provide evidence of your faith. Do you display it for your glory or for God’s?
Read Psalm 99. How do you seek a healthy balance of awe and intimacy in your relationship with God?
Read 2 Corinthians 3:12–4:2. What “veil” separates you from God—a sense of unworthiness, a hardened heart, a lack of understanding?
Read Luke 9:28-43a. Jesus shines with God’s glory, but then he gets back to his work of healing. Consider how God might transform you to do better the work you are already doing for God.
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