A little more than a week after the last story that Luke has told us, Jesus took His disciples Peter, John and James up to a mountain to pray and that is where this story takes place. We might note that from Matthew’s account, Jesus and the Twelve have been in seclusion for several days. Jesus has been teaching them and helping them to understand and prepare for what would be coming along in the near future; we might say that He has been discipling the disciples.
There the four of them are on this mountain; Jesus was praying as the three disciples were having a hard remaining awake, and then it happened. His face was changed, His clothing began to shine brightly and He was joined by two other forms, that of Moses and that of Elijah in their glory; Jesus was speaking with them about His “departure” which was fast approaching. Becoming fully awake, Peter had the excellent notion of building shelters for each of them, but that was not the plan.
A cloud descended upon the disciples and from the cloud came the voice of God telling them that they should listen to the Son of God (not the servants of God). When the cloud lifted, only Jesus remained. As Luke mentions in the text, when Peter offered his idea, he did not yet understand what was happening, and to be quite accurate, it would still be some time before he did.
The three bewildered disciples kept this to themselves for the present.
Needless to say, this scene is an apocalyptic one, for it really isn’t the point that Jesus was having a conference with Moses and Elijah, although He was having a conference with them. The real point is seen by taking note of what they represented to the Jewish mind: Moses was the embodiment of the Law, Elijah was the embodiment of the prophets and the Law and the prophets speak of Jesus. When the Law and the prophets are taken away, only Jesus is left, because in Jesus we find the complete fulfillment of both Law and prophets.
The three disciples would have some difficulty getting their brains around this new reality, and if we are honest with ourselves, we still have some difficulty getting our minds around it as well. Jesus, having tried to teach the disciples about this new reality, would soon show them what He was all about…