Moses and Elijah: The witness of the Scriptures

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (Matthew 17:2-3)

On the mountain of transfiguration we have two and three witnesses to the event. The three disciples and the two Old Testament characters, who appear when Christ is glorified. Two and three are important numbers in the Scriptures concerning witness; for it is by the testimony of two or three that a matter is firmly established. (Dt 19:17, Mt 18:16) So it is to the significance of Moses and Elijah as witnesses that I want to turn next. There is another way that Moses and Elijah represent witnesses, but the first one I want to examine is how they represent the witness of the Scriptures.

The Old Testament is frequently referred to in the New Testament as "The Law and the Prophets," Jesus himself referred to it this way several times. This is due to the division of the Old Testament books into the first five written by Moses, who was the one who brought the Israelites the Law of God that they were to live by; and the prophetic writings which included the rest (interestingly including the historical books eg. Samuel, Chronicles, Kings - which were often written by prophets. Just shows that you need a prophetic vision of the future to correctly understand your past!)

When Jesus is glorified it is highly significant that these two figureheads of the Law and the Prophets turn up. And it is significant that they immediately direct their speach towards Jesus. For the whole Testimony of the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi, is directed towards and finds it fulfilment in Christ.

"We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." (Jn 1:45)

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

But it is also significant that the testimony of Moses and Elijah is revealed when the glory of Christ is revealed, for Paul says:

But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. (2Co 3:14-16)

It is only when Christ is revealed that the true testimony of the Scripture can received.

It's easy to see how these two go together. For if all the Scriptures are ultimately there to testify to Christ, then it follows that we can only receive this testimony when we know the one to whom they testify.

But, I believe there is a greater implication than just the one off event of turning to the Lord. For the disciples knew Jesus, they had (three of them) seen him glorified on the mountain, yet there were still aspects of the Old Testament Scriptures and Jesus' words that were still closed to them until Jesus was risen from dead.

Our revelation of the scriptures is governed by the extent of our revelation of Christ.

So we have a wonderful positive cycle between reading the Scriptures and knowing Christ. For it is by reading the word that we know him better, and in knowing him better that more of the Scriptures that point to him are unlocked to us.

This is not attaining to some new secret knowledge, not made clear in the plain reading of the word (like the Gnostics beleived), but a wonderful journey of discovery of the wonders of Christ, as if we too were travelling down the Emmaus road with him, slowly discovering how more and more of the word finds its true meaning to point to him, our hearts burning within us with each new revelation.

For Moses and Elijah show another thing in this respect. The word is alive; a living testimony to Christ. It is living and active (Heb 4:12). The Bible is not the kind of book you read once and then know completely. But one where you discover something new every time you open its pages. If we know how to listen we will discover that Moses and Elijah are still speaking!

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