My father told me once of a friend of his who was climbing a high mountain in Scotland. At one stage while he was near a pretty steep drop a thick mist descended on the mountain. He had to stop and sit down until the cloud lifted as he could see nothing and it was too dangerous to move in any direction. He just had to wait. When the cloud lifted there was an eagle perched right in front of him, which flew away as soon as it became aware of the man’s presence. A beautiful encounter. But as long as he was in the cloud he could do nothing.
Today we read about this extraordinary event we call the transfiguration, when Peter, James and John for a few seconds were allowed to get a glimpse of who Jesus was. They saw Jesus in blinding and terrifying glory. On various occasions Jesus took Peter, James and John with him but not the others. When he healed the 12 year old girl known as Jairus’ daughter, they were the only ones allowed with him apart from her parents. Here they witnessed Jesus bringing this girl back to life from the dead. Can you imagine the effect it would have on you to witness such a thing? Shortly after the transfiguration they were also to watch Jesus falling apart with fear and stress in the Garden of Gethsemane. This must have been something terrible to watch not to mention the appalling feeling of not being able to do anything about it. So it seems they were being given a special training. It is believed that one of the reasons they were given the experience of the transfiguration was to strengthen them for what they would witness in Gethsemane and during Jesus’ passion. This would have been one of the most difficult tests of their faith.
When Jesus was transfigured before them on the mountain, two people also appeared with him. Moses was the one the commandments had been given to. The commandments were the teaching of God given to us. The Jewish people believed that if they lived those commandments perfectly they would go to heaven. That is why they developed the complex system of sub-laws from the commandments, which covered every aspect of life. So Moses represented this path to God that was given to us by God himself.
Elijah was considered the greatest of the prophets. The prophets were the ones sent by God to keep guiding the people back to him when they had gone astray, or to reassure the people that God was with them in times of difficulty. So Elijah represented all of these people. The law and the prophets together were basically the way to heaven for the Jewish people. This was what God had given them to help them.
Now suddenly the two of these men who had died many centuries before are standing there talking to Jesus. They are a symbol that Jesus is now the fulfilment of the law and the prophets. He completes them. After Jesus there is nothing else needed, because Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God. God reveals himself most completely in the person of Jesus, who is truly God and truly man. What happens next is another sign of this.
In their wonder and excitement Peter starts talking nonsense: ‘Lord it is wonderful for us to be here…’ Then they are suddenly in a dense cloud and they are afraid. They cower on the ground in fear and then they hear the voice that says: ‘This is my Son the chosen one; listen to him.’ ‘Listen to him.’ I think those last three words are perhaps the most important of the whole event. ‘Listen to Jesus.’ In him is everything you need. If you have him you have everything. He teaches us everything about God, about heaven, about the path we need to follow. There is no other voice that we need listen to apart from him. Later in one of his letters Peter mentions this event. He says ‘We ourselves heard this voice from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain’ (2 Peter 1:18). He was saying, ‘This is all true, we aren’t making it up! We were there.’
Think for a minute of all the things we listen to and read each day: newspapers, chatshows, tv programs, the soaps, hundreds of ads. How many of these inspire us, encourage us, give us direction? Yet the one thing we really need to listen to continually is often left out. Perhaps this is an invitation to us to come back to the Scriptures again and again and again. We have been given the gift of God’s speaking directly to us in his word. If that is really true as we say it is, what could possibly be more important to hear every day than this?
Jesus is the only one who knows the answers to everything we ask, to all the problems we have, to all the decisions we worry over. He speaks to us continually through the Scriptures, guiding us, encouraging us, inspiring us. He is the only one we need to listen to.
'This is my Son the chosen one; listen to him.'