Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
The Exodus has the three essential elements of a great story: a problem, a struggle, and a resolution. Through these days of Lent we have explored the problem of life in the bondage of Egypt, the struggle of Wilderness wandering, and the resolution of God’s rest in His Promised Land. But the Exodus is unlike other great stories that begin and end at home. The Exodus is a journey to where we have never been before, a journey to the Promised Land.
On this Easter Sunday we conclude with the passage we first explored on Ash Wednesday, the marvelous scene of Jesus’ transfiguration. Here are three men from this side of heaven, Peter, James, and John, who see three men from the other side of heaven, Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. For a moment the three disciples are granted a vision of Jesus’ eternal glory. They get to listen in as Jesus talks with the two Old Testament greats about “his departure which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem”.
Significant for our study of the Exodus story is the fact that Jesus is talking with Moses and Elijah about His “departure” (Greek: exodus). Clearly the Exodus story is foremost on their minds as Jesus looks ahead to Jerusalem and the cross. We might wonder why it is Moses and Elijah that are invited to this holy scene. Why not righteous Noah, Abraham the friend of God, or David the man after God’s own heart, to name a few. Perhaps we best understand Moses’ presence as representing the law and its sacrificial system, and Elijah as representing all the prophets. Moses is the preeminent lawgiver and Elijah the preeminent prophet; both are symbolic of the Old Testament law and prophets bearing testimony to Christ.
We can imagine Moses overcome with deep emotion talking with Jesus about the Passover lamb sacrificed to redeem God’s people out of Egypt. Moses knew at that moment he was standing in the presence of God’s Passover Lamb who would take away the sins of the world (John 1:29; I Corinthians 5:7). Perhaps Moses also talked about Jesus being the very “rock” in the wilderness that poured forth water for thirsty people (I Corinthians 10:4). And Elijah the great prophet might have talked about having led the people on an Exodus out of the bondage of idolatry, and preparing the way for God’s new Exodus in Jesus Messiah (Malachi 3:5). It is no accident that these three men wrapped in glory are talking about the Exodus, as it encompasses God’s one grand story of redemption and love. Through Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection He leads us out of the bondage of sin and death.
Jesus is truly our spiritual Joshua leading us forward, as “Jesus” (Greek: Yeshua) is the New Testament Greek equivalent for the Hebrew name “Joshua”. In Hebrew the name Joshua means, “God is my Savior” or “God is rescue”. Thus, our Savior’s very name is a one word testimony of our faith, and of what Jesus was sent to do (Matthew 1:21). He is our Savior, our Rescuer from bondage. Bible scholar William Barclay describes the significance of this Easter day in Exodus language:
He is God’s divinely appointed and divinely sent Rescuer, whose function is to deliver men from their sins. He came to rescue men from the estrangement and the alienation from God which is the consequence of their past sins, and for the future to liberate them from the bondage to sin, from the moral frustration and the continuous and inevitable defeat which are the result of sin. He came to bring friendship for fear, and victory for defeat (Jesus As They Saw Him).
Today is the day of new beginnings, a day we celebrate crossing over from death into life, from despair into buoyant, indomitable joy. The Lord is risen! He is risen, indeed!
Now is the shining fabric of our day
Torn open, flung apart,
Rent wide by Love. Never again
The tight, enclosing sky,
The blue bowl,
Or the star-illumined tent,
We are laid open to infinity,
For Easter Love
Has burst His tomb and ours.
Now nothing shelters us
From God’s desire –
Not flesh, not sky,
Not stars, not even sin.
Now glory waits
So He can enter in.
Now does the dance begin.
(Elizabeth Rooney, All Miracle)