Jesus “was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light.” (Matthew 17:2)
The story of Jesus’ transfiguration is one of my favorites because it is such a break from the narrative flow of the gospels. It was literally an “in-breaking” of God’s glory, a pulling back of the curtain to reveal more of Jesus than what everyone saw on the surface. It was the moment the disciples saw the glory of God in the tent of Jesus’ flesh, the Word revealed behind the flesh of His human body. Jesus’ humanity was unveiled for a moment to reveal the divinity within. It must have been an amazingly intense moment for the disciples and a very timely, needed encouragement for Jesus.
Jesus had just revealed His assignment fully to the disciples: suffering, betrayal, crucifixion, death, and resurrection. They didn’t get it. They thought it was just another parable. The ministry of Jesus was exploding, His name was spreading, and crowds were gathering. And the persecution was growing more intense as well. He was experiencing the rejection of men constantly—teachers accusing Him of being the devil, leaders wanting Him dead, His own family calling Him crazy. The shadow of the cross was looming. Jesus’ cousin, John, was gone. None of His followers understood. Jesus was alone.
I image the experience was life-altering for the disciples. It was so impactful that Peter references it in his second letter, clearly showing how well-known the story was to those he pastored. I am sure what Peter, James, and John witnessed marked them. And yet, I believe this moment was more for Jesus than for them.
There are many profound things that happen in the story: Jesus heads up a mountain for a bit of R&R, spends some time in prayer like He often does. Peter, James, and John fall asleep (I figure that happened regularly when Jesus had extended times of communion with the Father). And then, all of a sudden, the boys wake up to see Jesus brighter than the sun and two guys talking with Him. While they are still groggy from sleep and wrapping their minds around the encounter, Father speaks from heaven to them about His Son.
Any one of these things could be its own message. But wait!? Moses and Elijah are talking with Jesus! This is my favorite part. Why are these two guys hanging out with Jesus on earth and having a conversation? (The Greek word for “talking with” in Matthew 17:3 could be well translated “conversing” as in having a face-to-face dialogue). What are they talking about!?
Let’s go backwards before we move on. Moses is one of God’s closest friends, ever. He made it into the hall of fame of faith. He, like Enoch, Noah, and Abraham walked with God. In fact, God Himself says that Moses is one of His closest besties: “I speak with him face-to-face” (Numbers 12). The intimate friendship Moses had with God is one that generations of believers have desired to have. Moses’ conversations with God are mind blowing. That a human was invited to talk with God about such things and receive such revelatory insight into God’s kingdom is amazing. Since God is the God of the living and Moses is one of His friends, it is very likely that this Moses has been in heaven hanging out with Jesus (The Pre-Incarnate Word) for hundreds of years before Jesus’ incarnation. Can you imagine the depth of friendship?
Then there is Elijah. He is one of only two people taken bodily into heaven. He didn’t even experience death. He was a prophet who served the Lord his whole life and trained up many others to follow the Lord. Together Moses and Elijah represent the law and the prophets which point to Jesus. Both men, on earth, had insight into the coming Savior (see 1 Peter 1). And yet, likely they’ve been with God now for generations, soaking in the glory of God.
Now guess what they are talking about? According to the gospel of Luke, they are discussing Jesus’ assignment. Luke says they were conversating about Jesus’ “exodus”, literally His departure or death and the details surrounding how He would accomplish this sacrificial assignment at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Is it a coincidence that the exodus of Israel from Egypt is a picture of our salvation (think Passover lamb, blood, deliverance and such)? Is it random that Moses, who led the exodus of Israel, is now talking to his own Savior of the new exodus, the true Passover lamb to be slain, and the eternal redemption of the world? I think not!
Here is the point and the invitation to us: Moses and Elijah are friends of God. They have been sent by God to encourage Jesus. Jesus isn’t talking with angels; he’s talking with men. He has no one else to stand with on earth. Proverbs 27:9 tells us “the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.”
I want to be that close to Jesus! To know Him that deeply, to be invited into such intimate conversation, to be trusted with such vulnerable details. I want a “face-to-face” friendship with God; I want God to reveal His heart to me. And that is the invitation. Every God-encounter with one person is an invitation to all. Here are just a few verses that reveal the deep yearning of Jesus’ heart to be known:
- I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you (John 15:15).
- The time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father (John 16:25).
- Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me (John 17:24).
Jesus has invited you into a deep, intimate friendship with Himself. He wants to reveal Himself and the deep things of His heart to you. He wants to enjoy communion and conversation with you. The first step is to simply come to Him. Begin to set aside time daily to seek Him. Ask Him for revelation and then open the Bible (I recommend starting in the Gospels). He will meet you there and speak to you.