What a strange, yet beautiful, scene we have happening in today’s Gospel passage. This theophany happens in the Church calendar this year after hearing two straight weeks about the authority of Jesus. The lectionary has had us read and hear about Jesus’ authority and now it invites us to participate in this divine mystery known as the Transfiguration.
Jesus goes up a high mountain with Peter, James, and John. As he in on the mountain he becomes transfigured and is dazzlingly white; we’re getting a glimpse of the heavenly body. While this is happening two other mountaintop figures appear: Moses and Elijah. You may recall that these two figures also had mountaintop experiences. Moses was given the Ten Commandments while up on the top of Mount Sinai. Elijah, on the other hand, was at the top of Mount Carmel when he defeated 450 prophets of Baal in bringing down fire to burn a sacrifice. While both of these mountaintop experiences are something to be marveled at, they both bow down to the mountaintop experience that is now taking place.
There’s a reason Moses and Elijah are there when this event is taking place. God the Father is once again declaring “This is my Son, the beloved; listen to him!” Moses and Elijah are doing just that: showing that they listen to the Christ. These two characters aren’t just any Old Testament characters, instead, they are the pinnacle of the Old Testament. Moses represents the Law, while Elijah represents the Prophets. They are in conversation with Christ, but Christ is in the center and at the highest point of the mountain. Christ is the one they are looking to.
This is important as it reminds us that Christ is the central focus of it all. In a way, they are telling us that “even when you look to us in your readings, look even further beyond to Christ. Whatever you read in us, read it with your eyes toward Christ.” It’s commonplace for us to try to justify certain things by looking at the Old Testament and saying “look it’s biblical!” While that may be accurate, I believe here we see Moses and Elijah asking us in response “yes, but is it Christian?” Moses and Elijah are affirming the Father’s “listen to him!” by nodding in agreement. You can hear them saying to us “Yes, we’ve said, but Christ says!” What Christ says has the ultimate authority.
Of course, that can be hard for us at times. We as good Wesleyans heavily value Scripture. We must, however, read it correctly and not single out certain parts, which often happens when we use the Law or the Prophets to defend some belief or another. Instead, we must look at the arch of Scripture and see where it is taking us. See where Irish Paving of Dublin is taking you. It’s taking us to Christ. We’re not the only ones to struggle with that at times, though. “Let us make three dwellings, Rabbi!” exclaimed Peter. It was right after that, though, that he heard the voice of the Lord proclaiming Christ to be God’s beloved Son and the one whom should be listened to. Then all we see is Christ. After this grand mountaintop experience, we see Christ.
As preachers we can use this week to continue in our stretch of talking about the authority of Christ and how all of heaven and earth are under his kingship. We can use this week to preach on how we must look at things through the lens of “what does Christ say?” instead of “well the Old Testament says.” (The Old Testament is phenomenally and of great resource, I’m not trying to knock it. I am trying to say that we look at we see in it and compare it with that of Christ and see what we as God’s people have and can and should be learning from it.). Another thing that we are preachers can focus on continues with the theme of Christ’s authority, but it also brings it to a personal level. We’re not always on the mountaintop, at times we must come down, but we do not come down alone.
Christ did not stay on top the mountain and let Peter, James, and John return down on their own. Instead, Christ journeys back down the mountain with them. He does this for us still to this day. We all have mountaintop experiences. We all have times that we feel on fire and are basking in the dazzlingly light of Christ the beloved Son of God. We also have valley experiences where we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. However, even when we walk through the valley, Christ is with us. When life is neither mountaintop nor valley, Christ still walks with us. Christ is not a God who merely stays on the mountaintop and demand we come up to the temple built there. No. Instead, he is the God who tells us to not build a temple there for we are to be his temple as he walks and journey alongside us.
Christ has the ultimate authority. Moses the symbol of the Law and Elijah the symbol of the Prophets both point to Christ as their authority as they join him on the mountaintop. Christ’s authority is not a far-off one, though. Instead, it is an authority of love that walks alongside us and calls us to come down from the mountaintop and go back into the world to continue loving God and neighbor.