In Luke 9:28-36, Jesus’ transfiguration is described. I am particularly interested in verses 30 and 31.
Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem
I have three points.
1. In another translation, verse 31 reads: “… which he was about to accomplish.” How about that language? Jesus was about to accomplish his torture and death. He was about to bring that to fulfillment and it was being celebrated!
2. The term “departure” is a translation of the Greek “exodus”. How appropriate! The reference to exodus reminds us that Jesus is the ultimate Passover lamb. He has taken our place under the death sentence imposed by our sin. Read Exodus 12 to review the first Passover.
3. Why were Moses and Elijah present? We just mentioned the Passover and Jesus’ “exodus”. Remember that Moses led the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage in the first exodus and was given the law at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20) afterwards. Jesus represents the new covenant (promise) that did what the law could not (Romans 8:3-4). Jesus’ death and resurrection repaired our broken relationship with the Father once and for all. It is the turning point of history.
Elijah first appears in 1 Kings 17:1.
Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”
Elijah was truly a mighty prophet of God. He was obedient. He was “very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.” (1 Kings 19:10) You can follow his exploits through the end of 1 Kings and into 2 Kings.
Elijah plays a special role in the coming of the Messiah (Jesus) because it was prophesied in the last Old Testament book of Malachi about 400 years prior to Jesus’ birth. Malachi 4:4-5 says:
Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.
Luke 1:17 tells us how Elijah was sent. Just prior to the angel’s visit to Mary (Luke 1:28-38), an angel appeared to Zecharias, a temple priest. He told Zecharias that his wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son:
And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:17)
This son was John (the Baptist). Here’s what Jesus had to say about John the Baptist:
Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. (Matthew 1:11-13)
Moses and Elijah also have special significance because they spoke directly with God (Exodus 19 and 33, 1 Kings 19). The God of all creation determined that these friends should be present as He proclaimed:
“This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” (Luke 9:35)