Updated: Jan 22
Luke tells us that Jesus went up on a mountain to pray. For Jesus to withdraw himself in prayer was not something out of character. He would often remove (1) himself in times of quiet prayer. However, this mountain experience would not be like other times. Peter, John, and James, three disciples, went with Jesus. While Jesus prayed, His appearance changed, His face and clothes became as bright as the sun. As He was praying, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared with Him.
LUKE 9: 28-36 “About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 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. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The
disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.” (New International Version)
This event is often referred to as the transfiguration and is recorded in the synoptic gospels. (2). Matthew records that Jesus was transfigured, meaning changed or transformed.
Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the mountain as they spoke about the departure of Jesus. Jerusalem was just ahead for Jesus, and Jesus knew what waited for Him there. Jesus was stepping forward to the cross where He would suffer and be put to death. Although death and the cross awaited Jesus, they would not be the end of or the final moments in His life and ministry. Jesus overcame death and the cross. In doing so, He opened the way to life for many.
Presence of God
Mountains are often where the presence of God, the Divine, intersects with His creation, humans. Elijah, a great prophet in Israel’s history, met God on a mountain (3). Moses met with God on a mountain when God delivered His law to Israel (4). Standing with Jesus on the mountain, Elijah and Moses represent the law and the prophets of Israel. Jesus now fulfills both the law and prophets.
As they were speaking on the mountain, a cloud covered them. When Israel crossed the Red Sea; the Lord went ahead of them as a pillar of cloud (5). God appeared to Moses as a cloud on Mt. Sinai (6). When we read the word “cloud,” we may be tempted to think of soft, white, fluffy clouds against the backdrop of a deep blue sky. However, the cloud that led Israel covered Mt. Sinai, and fell over where Moses, Elijah, and Jesus stood, was not the clouds we may be tempted to consider. The cloud was the divine presence and glory of God. Peter would later refer to this cloud as “Majestic Glory." (7)
Listen to Him
From this cloud, a voice said, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” With Jesus on the mountain, the disciples would have immediately recognized the reference and importance of the words “listen to Him.” These were the words spoken by God to Moses of The Prophet who was to come (8). messianic prediction of The Prophet who would be greater than Moses himself. Listen to Jesus.
Jesus withdrawing to pray was not something uncommon. However, this time was different. Peter, James, and John were able to see a glimpse of the glory that is Jesus. He stepped forward to the cross, where He suffered and died. However, death could not contain the Creator who formed the mountains and the clouds.
Through His death, many will receive life. In overcoming death, Jesus is exalted and glorified (9).
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations from; THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
1. Lk. 5:16
8. Deut. 18:15
9. Acts 2:32-33