Moses and Elijah explain Christianity

Among the readings for the second Sunday in Lent is Luke 9:28-36.  It is the set gospel for Roman Catholics and an option for most Protestants.

The scripture is Luke’s version of the Transfiguration.  On a mountain top Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus and three of his disciples.  Jesus himself becomes translucent or something.  Obviously what happened was hard to put into words.

Other synoptic gospel’s have a version of this event.  They all stress Moses representing the Law and Elijah representing the Prophets.  The meaning of the event is that the Law and the Prophets, the Hebrew Scripture, endorse Jesus.  The word of God in this case is “This is my son, my chosen, listen to him” (v. 35).

However, I want to point out something that is unique to Luke.  Jesus’ clothes become dazzling white.  This is a sign of his glory.  Moses and Elijah also appear in glory (v. 31).  I assume that means that they also seem to have shining white clothes.

When the women discover the empty tomb there are two men there in “dazzling apparel” (Luke 24:4).  Are these, once again Moses and Elijah?  Remember Luke would expect the reader to remember the Transfiguration and the appearance of Moses and Elijah in glory with Jesus.  So, once again, Luke wants us to see the Law and the Prophets testifying to the status of Jesus.  Mark only has one young man at the tomb.  And Matthew has angels.

The return of Moses and Elijah is confirmed when we remember that the book of Acts is volume 2 of Luke.  In Acts 1 a cloud (also present at the Transfiguration) takes the risen Jesus up.  Then two men in white robes appear to explain this to the disciples (Acts 1:10).

So it looks like Luke shows us the representatives of the Hebrew Bible, Moses and Elijah, at the Transfiguration, the Resurrection, and the Ascension.  All three of these events seem ethereal to us–hard to fit into a rational world view.  Luke is trying to help us, not by giving us a precise account of events that a TV crew could have recorded, but by helping us to fit these events into a longer story.  Moses and Elijah are a big part of the story behind the Transfiguration, the Resurrection, and the Ascension.  I think Luke is saying that if you want to understand the glory of Jesus, you have to also understand the glory of the lawgivers and prophets who came before him.


About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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