Parallel Texts: Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36
Six days go by, and then Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him up a nearby mountain. When they arrive, the three disciples are treated to an awesome and shocking sight; the transfiguration. Suddenly, Jesus is transformed to a heavenly state, His clothing shines brightly, and He is joined by Moses and Elijah; they are speaking together. The disciples are terrified, and who can blame them?
Peter blurts out that they should build three shrines, but suddenly they are joined by another presence, a presence within a descending cloud, and then a voice speaks:
“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (v. 7)
Think about that sight, these events so far…
Jesus, Moses and Elijah speaking together: Jesus, the Law and the Prophets speaking together. From the Jewish point of view, life is wrapped up in the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). Then the voice of God tells them to listen to Jesus! The voice tells them that Jesus is the One He loves. Hold on a minute; what about the Law and the Prophets?
Poof! They are gone!
Jesus would shortly fulfill the Law and the Prophets; their day had come and would shortly be gone, leaving only Jesus.
Jesus asked them to keep this to themselves until He had risen from the dead, and they are confused about this rising from the dead part, because even now they are thinking from an earthly point of view,
And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”
There are many theories on this text, and as usual, I will let others speculate on the fine points, while I simply point out the obvious ones. Why was it said that Elijah would come first? Because he would come first, and he had come first. The people so entirely misunderstood the prophecies concerning Elijah, that they killed him. Now they were with Messiah, and the people so completely misunderstood the prophecies about Jesus, that they would soon kill Him also. Many at the time believed that Elijah would return to restore all things, but they were being a bit too literal, for as we now know, the One who will restore all things is Jesus, who in fact has already done just that, having restored Man to God though the forgiveness of sins and with the gift of eternal life.