Listen to Jesus, not only Moses and Elijah

Listen to Jesus, not only Moses and Elijah

The Old Testament is rich and full of useful things for Christians to think about. We see how God relates to his people, his faithfulness to the promises, and instructions about how to live. All of that is true. Yet there is a real danger that we don’t see the Old Testament in the right light. The transfiguration of Jesus helps us to avoid a few fundamental mistakes that it is easy to make.

In the transfiguration, Jesus was transformed with his face and clothes glowing. And while he was in this transformed state, Moses and Elijah appeared beside him.

(As an aside, this raises all kinds of issues for us. How did the disciples know they were Moses and Elijah? Were there nametags or subtitles or something? Were they really there or some kind of vision? This is one of those passages we wish we had more detail in, but we are told what we need to know.)

Why Moses and Elijah? Well, together they symbolise the Old Testament. Jesus often referred to the Old Testament as the Law and the Prophets (as in Matt 5:17, 7:12). Moses wrote the Law, the first five books of the Old Testament. Elijah didn’t write any books, but he is the greatest of the prophets in the Former Prophets. So these two men represent the Old Testament.

Interestingly, when Peter makes his foolish offer to build shelters for the Jesus, Moses and Elijah, it is at that point that the voice from heaven spoke. The takeaway message for the disciples is that if they understood who Jesus was, they should listen to him. The disciples fell on their faces; when they arose at Jesus’ command, they could only see Jesus. Being Jewish, the disciples would have a great deal of respect for the Old Testament, for Moses and Elijah. Yet the voice says that the one to listen to, ultimately, is Jesus. The Old Testament points to Jesus; without Jesus, we are bound to read the Old Testament wrongly or put too much emphasis on it.

This helps us avoid two opposite errors when it comes to the Old Testament:

  1. We must not read the Old Testament alone without reference to Jesus. If we read the stories about Elijah and think them only entertaining, interesting history, or evidence of the power of God, we haven’t gone far enough. Elijah, like the rest of the Old Testament, points to Jesus. Elijah spoke the word of God into a dark place and demonstrated its truth with miracles; Jesus is the word of God whose miracles underlined the truth of his message. We should always look to how the Old Testament points to Jesus.
  2. We must not ignore the Old Testament and think it unimportant. Moses and Elijah, and the rest of the Old Testament, are the background for Jesus. If we want to understand Jesus better, we need to know the Old Testament. It is there we read of creation and sin, of sacrifice, of covenant promises, of God’s presence, and so much more.

The Old Testament points to Jesus. How blessed we are to have so much information about what our God is like and who Jesus is!