Jesus’ transfiguration is an unusual episode in the life and times of Jesus. It was during the transfiguration that Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the mountain and spoke with him of his departure from this world. And there is an even more interesting aspect of this event that leads right to the heart of the New Covenant and our walk with Christ.
What Jesus, Moses and Elijah represent
There is a spiritual message in the transfiguration of Jesus and to gain the full insight it is necessary to understand what Jesus, Moses and Elijah represent.
In the Bible you often see references to the law and the prophets. The law was given by God to the children of Israel through Moses. Elijah was one of the greatest of all the prophets as he did not die but was taken directly into Paradise.
These two great men then can be considered to be representing the law and the prophets.
Then we see Jesus who is bringing into being the New Covenant. The book of Hebrews speaks of him being the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) and he is also spoken of as the first-born of all creation (Colossians 1:15).
Now we see in the transfiguration these three discussing Jesus departure. They are in communication and the have a relationship with each other, just as the law and the prophets communicate and relate to the New Covenant. The law and prophets testify to the coming of Jesus Christ and to the coming of the New Covenant through which man can be saved from sin.
New Covenant versus Old Covenant
But there is a difference between the two covenants. The Old Covenant of law brings the knowledge of sin for sin is lawlessness and the breaking of the law. (1 John 3:4) The law is not sin, but the law brings the knowledge of sin and it condemns man to bondage under the law and through sin the bondage to death.
But the New Covenant is not about bondage but is about freedom through Jesus Christ. As Jesus said, “…the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32) Paul also wrote, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) When he spoke of slavery he is referring to the law and the bondage under the law. He further goes on to say that if you are bound under the law and enslaved to the law then, “…You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)
So we see there is a tension between the two covenants and in some ways they are like oil and water; they do not mix. The Old Covenant foretells the coming of the New Covenant and testifies to it, but you cannot live under both covenants at the same time. How can you live in bondage to the law when Jesus has set you free from the law? To do so is like living in adultery, which is how Paul described it in Romans 7:1-4.
1 Do you not know, brethren–for I am speaking to those who know the law–that the law is binding on a person only during his life?
2 Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning the husband.
3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
4 Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.
Both of the women may have been good women, as both the Covenants are good covenants, but to live with two women is adultery, and to live under the two covenants at the same time is spiritual adultery. That is, the New Covenant becomes adulterated by the Old Covenant for they are different and through Christ we move out of the Old Covenant and into the New Covenant. This is achieved through being baptised into his death and having faith in God that you are released from sin and the law by taking on the death of Jesus as your own. Just as the woman in the example was set free from the laws of marriage through the death of her husband and can marry another, we too are set free from the laws of Moses through the death of Jesus so that we can enter into the New Covenant.
This is my Beloved Son, Listen to Him
And we see that God the Father places emphasis on this change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant also.
When Peter says that he and the other disciples could build booths for each of Jesu, Moses and Elijah, in effect Peter has made all three equal. But God the Father speaks to Peter from heaven and sets him straight saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Verse 35) God did not place equal emphasis on all three. Instead he said listen to Jesus.
And when the disciples had arisen after hearing the voice of God, Moses and Elijah had disappeared leaving only Jesus, showing that it is Jesus who is the focus of our worship. Listen to Him.
This is a good lesson for all of us and one we should take to heart. Our focus is Jesus and we need to listen to him. Certainly there is wisdom in the Old Covenant, but our salvation comes only through Jesus Christ and it is in him that all the promises of God are fulfilled.
(Clipart sourced from oChristian.com http://clipart.ochristian.com/)