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Moses and Elijah

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 21, 2024 12:01 am

Moses and Elijah

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 21, 2024 12:01 am

Why did Moses and Elijah suddenly appear when Jesus was transfigured in the presence of His closest disciples? Today, R.C. Sproul discusses how the law and the prophets bear witness to Christ's glory.

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I want you to understand that the light that the disciples see in Christ is not a reflection. It is a light that is coming from inside of him, bursting through the shell of his body and of his garments, as the glory of his deity now explodes on the scene. And when they see this, what's their reactions? It's the same reaction all of us would have.

They were terrified. This week we've met people who encountered Jesus face-to-face during his earthly ministry. Most of these people had brief encounters with him recorded in the New Testament, but we didn't consider the disciples. Today we'll look at Peter, James, and John, not because they encountered Jesus, but because as they observe the transfiguration of Jesus, two other unexpected people appear, Moses and Elijah. Welcome to the Thursday edition of Renewing Your Mind. Thanks for being with us today. Don't forget that you can own this 13-message series yourself.

All the details for this special offer can be found at The transfiguration of Jesus must have been a sight to behold, and although the appearance of Moses and Elijah would have been unexpected for the disciples, their appearance wasn't for mere special effect. It had great significance.

Here's Dr. Sproul to explain. As we continue now with our study of those people who came face-to-face with Jesus during his earthly ministry, we notice that for the most part the characters we've examined are people who appear in the New Testament. We're going to look at Jesus coming face-to-face with characters from the Old Testament, but we're going to double the fun. Instead of going back to the Old Testament to see this encounter of Jesus with these Old Testament characters, we're going to see His encountering them in the New Testament, not in a Christophany, pre-incarnation sense, but in His incarnate sense. Jesus comes face-to-face with two figures from the Old Testament, and those persons are Moses and Elijah. Now before we look at this text, let's just consider the significance that it is these two men who meet Jesus face-to-face in the New Testament. There is significance in their appearance because Moses as the mediator of the Old Covenant is most famous for and noted for the giving of what? The giving of the law.

Whenever we see portraits of Moses, a sculptor, we usually see him holding the tablets of stone. He's the lawgiver of the Old Testament, and the role of Elijah in the Old Testament is to stand at the front of a long line of men who are called of God and endowed charismatically with the gift and the calling of that of a prophet. And the Scriptures so frequently say in summarizing all of the testimony of the Old Testament, the reference will be to what? To the law and to the prophets.

The law and the prophets, John tells us, ruled until John. And so with the appearance of Moses and Elijah in the New Testament, we see the appearance, the confluence, the coming together of the Old Testament law and of the prophets of the Old Testament with the Messiah who was to come, whose coming is foreshadowed and promised both in the law and in the prophets. What a fantastic moment in human history this is where this intersection takes place in time and space, where the law and the prophets come face to face with the Messiah. And of course I'm talking about that aspect in Jesus' life that is called the transfiguration. The transfiguration is recorded in more than one gospel, and today I'm going to read first of all the record of it that is found in the gospel according to Saint Mark. Mark has his treatment of the transfiguration in chapter nine beginning at verse one.

We read this, And he said to them, Assuredly I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God present with power. Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up on a high mountain apart from themselves, and he was transfigured before them. The first thing we have to note is where this takes place in the life of Jesus. Jesus had carried on a public ministry for quite some time, and he had ridden the waves of popularity where he ascended like a meteor to tremendous fame and popularity in the land. But there was an increasing growing hostility emerging at this time, and near the end of his ministry in a sense Jesus and his disciples went on a retreat. They went far to the north, to Galilee, and there while they were at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus gathered his inner circle, Peter, James, and John around himself and sort of took the pulse of what was going on, and it was there that he asked the question, Who do men say that I am?

And he got the response, Some say that you're a prophet and so on, and he said, Well who do you think that I am? And it was on that occasion that Peter gave the great confession, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. You know the story how that then Jesus blessed Peter and said, Blessed art thou Simon Bar-Jonah, and thou shalt be called Petros the rock, and upon this rock will I build my church and so on. But then in the next episode that takes place, Jesus explains to his disciples that it's time to leave this place of retreat and journey back to Jerusalem where Jesus tells his disciples that when he gets back to Jerusalem he is going to be betrayed and be delivered up to the authorities and that he's going to suffer and die. And when he says that, this same Simon Peter who had just moments before said, Thou art the Christ and the Son of the living God, now says, No, no, no, no. God forbid that you should go to Jerusalem.

We're not going to stand for that and so on. And Jesus who just so recently had said, Thou art Petros the rock, now he says, Get thee behind me Satan and has to rebuke Peter for his poor confession at this point. So when Mark tells us after six days, he's setting this in the historical narrative where six days after Jesus had informed his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem to die and they set out on that journey probably the most frightened, disappointed group of men in all of human history trudging along, following after Jesus as he sets his face like a flint towards Jerusalem as they are trying to bear up under this horrible news that he has given to them that he is about to die. How like it is of God in the midst of that kind of moment to burst through the veil of humiliation and give his people a taste of glory. The record of the transfiguration frankly is one of my favorite passages in all of the New Testament. A few years ago I wrote a book called The Glory of Christ and that book focused on those moments in Jesus' earthly ministry when as it were his divine nature peaked around the veil that concealed, that was concealed in terms of his deity.

Normally Jesus traveled incognito willingly embracing his role as the suffering servant in the midst of humiliation, hiding his glory from the naked vision of mortal men. But on rare occasions the glory would break through and it was a delightful experience for me to write a whole book just focusing on those moments where the glory broke through and there's no moment more glorious I think during the earthly ministry of Jesus than this one that is called the transfiguration. Again we look at the text of Mark chapter 9, after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, his inner core, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves and he was transfigured before them. Now that word transfigure is not a word that is commonplace in our vocabulary. In fact the Greek word would probably be more communicable to us than the English word because the Greek word is the word from which we get the English word metamorphosis and the word metamorphosis I think is more familiar to us than the word transfigure.

When do you ever hear the word transfigure except when you're singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, you know with the glory and his bosom that transfigures you and me and even then we have no idea what it means that we are transfigured. But let's look at a metamorphosis. A metamorphosis is something that takes place when the caterpillar becomes the butterfly. Ovid the Roman poet wrote a whole book by the title Metamorphosis. And metamorphosis has to do with a change of form.

Morphology is the science of forms. And so the Greek word here in this text has to do with a sudden, dramatic, visible transformation, transformation that is a going across or a changing of the forms of Jesus Himself. Before their very eyes suddenly Jesus' form changes. His figure changes. Into what? His clothes became shining, exceedingly white like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them.

Wow. The first appearance here is of a transformation in Jesus' physical appearance in His clothes and in His face. We're told that now suddenly the refulgent glory of God begins to shine. Whenever Scripture speaks of the glory of God, it speaks of that glory in terms of a shining, and it speaks of it in terms of a dazzling, blazing light that is so bright it would hurt the eyes to look at it directly.

And here as the author of the New Testament seeks to somehow find in his finite arsenal of vocabulary words a way to describe this ineffable experience of glory, he says that the whiteness of the garments of Jesus became whiter than any fuller or whiter than any launderer can make. I remember when I was a child I grew up, they didn't have television. We had radio, and when we would be home sick in the summertime, we'd have to listen to the soap operas all afternoon. And they were called soap operas because the sponsors of these programs were soap manufacturing companies. And I would listen to the jingles of the commercials, D-U-Z, D-U-Z, put those in your washing machine, see your clothes come out so great, D-U-Z does everything, rinse so white, rinse so blue, you know.

And you would hear all of these programs day after day after day with these ads. Well the one that intrigued me as a child was this one soap called Tide. Tide's in, dirt's out, T-I-D-E, Tide. See, that was the way we'd sing, that little commercial, but it seemed like every year Tide would come out with a new improved version. And they always advertised new and improved Tide. And I started to wonder about that after a while. I said now if this is eight years in a row that we're getting new and approved Tide, I wonder what that product was like eight years ago.

It must have been terrible. And then one of them, I don't know if it was Tide or whoever, finally came up with the slogan that they made their clothes come out whiter than white. And I thought now this is the nadir of Madison Avenue, distortion of the sanctity of truth because surely there is nothing whiter than white. White without any hint of color. White without the slightest hue of gray. White without the most minute mar or imperfection.

A white that is absolutely pure. Oh, if you want to catch a vision of that, read Herman Melville's classic chapter in Moby Dick on the whiteness of the whale, which was his symbolic description of the character of God Himself. But before the very eyes of the disciples, suddenly they see his clothes lose their drabness.

The gray, the black, the soil disappears, and there is a whiteness that is so pure, that is so dazzling, that is so bright that it begins to shine like the sun in its strength. And now this light is flowing out of Jesus. Now remember, in the Old Testament when Moses went to the mountain to meet with God, and when he spoke with God at Sinai, he asked for the big one. He said, you know God, it was great to see the Exodus and the burning bush and all those things, but let me see what every human eye has burned to see. Let me see your face. And God said, no Moses, no man can see my face and live.

But I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll carve out a little niche, a little hollow place in the rock, and I'll place you securely in that cleft in the rock, and I will pass by, and I will allow you a momentary glimpse of my backward parts that literally in the Hebrew, the hindquarters of Yahweh, but my face shall not be seen. And the Scriptures tell us that the glory of God passed by that cleft in the rock, and Moses had a momentary, instantaneous glance at the refraction of God's glory. And when he came down from the mountain, his face was shining with such intensity that it frightened the people. Moses' face, Moses' face was shining, and the shining that was coming from Moses' face was the result of the reflection of God's glory from a sidewards glance at his backward part. And I want you to understand that the light that the disciples see in Christ is not a reflection. It is a light that is coming from inside of him, bursting through the shell of his body and of his garments as the glory of his deity now explodes on the sea. And when they see this, what's their reaction?

It's the same reaction all of us would have. They were terrified, and we read in verse 4, and Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, Rabbi, it's good for us to be here. Let's make three tabernacles, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid.

Peter didn't know what was going on. All of a sudden there's this transfiguration. All of a sudden there's this dazzling whiteness and this brightness of the strength of Christ's glory. And then to add astonishment upon astonishment, suddenly who appears but Moses and Elijah? And the disciples are watching as Moses and Elijah ignore them and are involved in deep, earnest conversation with Christ. The Bible doesn't tell us everything that is spoken between them, but you know what was being said. Moses and Elijah come to the Messiah, and they say, go to Jerusalem. It is your destiny, and we have borne witness to you, and we stand with you, and God in heaven has sent us to come to confirm that to you. The law and the prophets are standing there discussing the mission of Christ with him. And as the Scriptures say, the disciples are very much afraid. And now to make matters worse, what happens? A cloud came and overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud saying, this is my beloved Son.

Hear him. And suddenly when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. What kind of a cloud was this? What kind of a cloud do we always associate with the presence of God but the Shekinah glory? And this cloud of glory comes now and encompasses Christ and encompasses Elijah and encompasses Moses.

Perhaps it had come to transport Elijah and Moses back to heaven just as Elijah once had been translated and had gone on the chariots of fire into the heavenly places. And just as the Shekinah glory cloud came again to escort Christ in his ascension into glory and the promise that Jesus made that at the last day when he would return to this world, he would return with the clouds of glory. So the Shekinah cloud that indicates the visible presence of God himself and his exalted majesty now overshadows it. If the vision of Christ's transformation wasn't enough and the appearance of Moses and Elijah wasn't enough, now here comes the cloud. And that's not the end yet. And as the cloud envelops them, they hear audibly the voice of God from heaven.

Think of it. Only three times in all the New Testament is it spoken of God that he spoke audibly from heaven. And on every occasion when God spoke, the message was substantially the same. Remember at the baptism, this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. And now while the disciples are cowering on the ground and hiding their faces and in absolute terror with this phenomenon that's taking place, they hear the voice of God. And what does God say?

This is my beloved Son. Hear Him. Listen to Him. They didn't want to hear Him. They didn't want to listen to Him. They didn't like what He was telling them, that He was going to Jerusalem to die. And to reinforce Jesus' teaching to these men came the testimony of Moses, the testimony of Elijah, and finally the audible word of God Himself. This is my Son. Hear Him.

And may each of us hear and heed the words of Jesus as we find them recorded for us in the pages of Scripture. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, and that was R.C. Sproul. You can hear Dr. Sproul three times a week in the Ultimately with R.C. Sproul podcast. In this brief podcast, you'll hear digestible insights and wisdom from Dr. Sproul's decades-long ministry, including teaching moments that have not been publicly released before.

So if you haven't already, go and follow Ultimately with R.C. Sproul wherever you listen to podcasts. It's also a great podcast to share with friends, to quickly introduce them to the kind of teaching they'll hear on Renewing Your Mind and in the Library of Ligonier Ministries. One of the teaching resources in that library is the series you heard from today, Face to Face with Jesus. It's 13 messages, and we'll send it to you for your donation of any amount at, or when you call us at 800 435 4343. Here Dr. Sproul's insights as we meet the woman at the well, Nathaniel, the two on the road to Emmaus, and others. So give your gift online at, and receive a lifetime digital access to the series and study guide, plus the series on DVD as well.

This offer ends tomorrow, so respond today. Last month, Ligonier was in Columbus, Ohio for a conference. It was so good to meet many Renewing Your Mind listeners and hear how the Lord is using the teaching of R.C.

Sproul and our other teachers every day to encourage and equip you. If you'd like to join us for an upcoming conference, including our national conference in May, it's not too late to register. Learn about all these upcoming opportunities in 2024 at slash events, including a wonderful Mediterranean study cruise in October, giving us the opportunity to hear trusted teaching and see many sites from the Bible. Look forward to seeing you or traveling with you. That address again is slash events. It was Pontius Pilate who handed Jesus over to be crucified, and it's his encounter with Jesus that we'll consider tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-21 02:55:32 / 2024-03-21 03:03:43 / 8

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