And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.  And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.  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.”  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.”  When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.  But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.”  And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
 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.”
In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.
Given to us in our Gospel reading is one of the greatest conversations on earth at our Lord’s transfiguration, and it is accompanied with one of the most glorious sights ever witnessed, as Jesus reveals exactly who it is that will soon head to Jerusalem to die and rise for all of humanity. The disciples had seen so many amazing and incredible things in their journey with Jesus all through Galilee. They had left their jobs, homes and even families to journey with this man from Galilee whom Peter had just confessed, was not just some prophet or great teacher but “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:20). After casting out demons, healing the sick, preaching to great multitudes, feeding over 5000 people with only 5 loaves and 2 fish, then speaking to His closest friends about how He would die on a cross, He asks Peter, James and John to go and pray with Him on the mountain. After falling asleep, Peter, James and John wake up to Jesus, who is now with Moses & Elijah talking on the mountain, and we are told Jesus’ face “shone like the sun”, with dazzling white clothes. An almost indescribable sight, but ultimately given to the disciples and us this morning is a revelation of Jesus, God the Son who has come to gather a people to Himself through His death on a cross.
Moses, who appears here with Elijah in conversation with Jesus, had himself seen something astonishing as well, when Jesus, before taking upon human flesh, gave His name, making Himself known to Moses. “I am that I am”, the name Yahweh.
Not by accident we see all of this given to us on a mountain, like Mt Sinai, or Mt. Carmel in the Old Testament, or the Sermon on the Mount or the mountain later in the gospels where Jesus sent out his disciples to preach and baptize every nation, or even the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascends to heaven after His resurrection. It is here, this mountain of transfiguration that we see so clearly that is was Jesus who was with Moses, and the One delivering the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt. Jesus, present here in our text who took His people through the Red Sea to a mountain, Sinai, speaking His ten words to Moses. The same Jesus, who in the Old Testament fed His people with bread from heaven, lead them day and night as a cloud and pillar of fire, and ultimately led them across the river Jordan and into the land He Promised. Moses knew Jesus and all He had done and now he, is speaking with Him on another mountain, and Jesus again is revealed, but now Incarnate, having taken upon Himself our flesh, as fully God yet one of us, one who is FOR us. Jesus is soon after this account in Matthew heading toward accomplishing His final work of redemption, not just for Moses and those who were Jewish, but for the whole world.
Here also with Jesus and Moses is Elijah, a great prophet spoken of in the Old Testament, who Jesus was with on the mountain called Carmel after mocking the false gods that King Ahab had wrongly brought into Israel. It was Jesus who defeated Ba’al and all the false gods in a powerful demonstration of fire showing that He alone was the true God and causing all the idolaters present to confess, “The Lord,(Yahweh) he is God” (1 Kings 18:39) In addition, Elijah also prophesied about the coming and promised Kingdom of God which would be prepared by one like Elijah, John the Baptizer, who preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, pointing to Jesus who inaugurates His kingdom with His coming to us on earth as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
For the “kingdom of heaven” mentioned so much in the Gospels is truly Jesus Himself, revealed at His baptism into our sins with the Father speaking the same words at Jesus’ baptism that He speaks here, connecting these two great events in Jesus ministry on earth exclaiming ““This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” Matt.17:5
Luke 9:30-31 tells us more specifically about the conversation the disciples overhear:
“And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah,
who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”
These great men could have spoken about many subjects, and we may imagine lots of things that could have been more pressing for them to discuss, “problems with the government, the lack of leadership in Israel, the economy, cleaning up all those tax collectors and adulterers. They could have spoken about a better system of getting their message out, how to draw even bigger crowds than the 5000, so they could show people their “purpose in life”.
They spoke instead of Jesus’ upcoming death, resurrection, and ascension, His “exodus” (which is the exact word Luke uses here). The Great Exodus of Jesus saving His people, or His departure to death on a cross. They didn’t discuss a clean-up plan for the earth, but rather Jesus building His church, a people gathered to Himself and cleansed with His own blood.
Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain shows us who it is that will die on another mountain, the mountain of Calvary. His upcoming death and resurrection there, makes known that you have no hope in your ability to save yourself, but Jesus does it all for you. Apart from His dying and rising for you, there is no hope for forgiveness. At His transfiguration, however, Jesus reveals to you exactly who dies for you and rises for you. Jesus is the same God of the Old Testament, the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, the God of Moses and those whom He delivered from the Egypt. Jesus is Promised Messiah spoken of by Elijah and the prophets, the One promised for you from the beginning. He is the final Prophet of whom the Father says,
““This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”” (Luke 9:35) And yet, the mighty and glorious Jesus although He is all powerful and glorious as shown in His transfiguration comes to you in weakness, comes to you in real time and space, on a cross, bearing your sins for you. As St. Paul reminds us in Phil. 2:6-8
“Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (ESV)
Jesus exodus or departure from earth, through death to is now yours by gift. He gives to you, through Baptism, all the benefits He won on the cross. His body and blood deliver this same cross to you now, so that you would have full assurance by grace through faith that He is always for you and eternally yours.
In the Name of Jesus,