“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Matthew 17:1-8: Moses and Elijah, pt. 1

3.2 Moses and Elijah

In verse 3 we are told that Moses and Elijah appear, talking with Jesus. Matthew uses the word idou to introduce this remark, which is translated “behold” in the ESV and “stresses the marvel of the experience” (Carson 385). This exclamation conveys something of the extraordinary nature of Moses and Elijah’s appearance. Let us consider what the significance may be of the appearance of these two specific persons.

First, the details of this text are particularly reminiscent of God’s revelation to Moses upon Mount Sinai. Both revelatory events occurred on mountains and included revelation from the Father coming from the clouds. Just as Moses’ face had shone radiantly (Exodus 34:29-35), the face of Jesus “shone like the sun” (Keener 278). Davies and Allison even argue that “the primary background for the synoptic picture of Jesus transfigured is to be found in the change Moses experienced on Sinai” (Davies and Allison 696). It is possible that Matthew is also alluding to Exodus 33, where Moses asks to see the glory of the Lord and is told that God’s goodness and mercy will be shown but that “you cannot see my face” (v. 20), and again in v. 23, “my face shall not be seen.” Matthew, however, explicitly references Jesus’ glorious appearance and shining face; Jesus is the supreme and final revelation of God, to which lesser revelation in the Old Testament had built up. This possibility calls to mind John 1:17-18, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

Both Elijah and Moses also received revelations of God’s glory on a mountain (Carson 384-5). Elijah experienced the presence of the Lord through wind, fire, and an earthquake as he stands on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:11-13), and Moses receives the law at Sinai as God descends in a cloud of glory (Exodus 19, 24, 33-34). There are striking similarities between the experiences of Moses and Elijah in Exodus 33 and 1 Kings 19. As described above, Moses is not allowed to see the face of God or his full glory; the Lord says, “I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by” (Exodus 33:22). Similarly, the Lord’s presence “passes by” Elijah and the Lord is said not to be in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire. In Matthew, however, there is no hint of any such concealing – God’s glory shines like the sun in the face of his Son. Again, in alluding to these earlier events, Matthew may be contrasting the limited revelation prior to Christ to the completeness of revelation in Christ. Hebrews 1:1-3 comes to mind: “Long ago, at many times and in any ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”...

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