The Conversation
2 Cor 4:3-6 and Mark 9:2-9
Transfiguration Sunday
Jane Shelton, CRE


            After reading the scripture to prepare for this Sunday’s Transfiguration sermon,

I realized how many sermons I had previously preached, and the topics that I had discussed.  Jesus miraculous transition from human to divine, and Peter’s incredible need to talk when what he really needed to do was listen, were just a couple of themes that I had remembered talking about.

            Looking at this same scripture in Mark this year, I wondered what story did God have prepared for me to deliver to you this morning. 

            It’s funny how reading a scripture year after year can bring you different messages in just a few verses, and I’ve often wondered why don’t I get it all the first time?  Why didn’t I recognize that in the story previously, and the only answers that I have to that question is that possibly it was not the message God was sending to me at that time, or maybe I wasn’t spiritually mature enough to receive it at the time I was reading it.

            In any event, the message that struck me today is something that I do not remember having been discussed previously in my years of reflecting on this Transfiguration Sunday, and that is the conversation between Moses, Elijah and Jesus.

            Let’s take a minute to set the stage for this story. 

            Six days earlier, Jesus had a conversation with the disciples regarding who he was, asking them, “Who do the people say that I am,” to which they responded, “John the Baptist; others say Elijah, and others say one of the prophets.” 

            Jesus then asks the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter answers, “You are the Messiah.”  At which time, Jesus orders them to tell no one about him.

            Jesus proceeds to teach them the things that are to come.  That he will undergo great suffering, be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the scribes.  He will be killed and after three days arise again.

            Peter then takes Jesus aside to rebuke him that he can avail himself of these things to come, to which Jesus rebukes Peter saying, “Get behind me Satan!  For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

            I wonder, was this the reason Peter was chosen as one of three disciples to witness Jesus’ transfiguration from an earthly form to a heavenly or divine form.

            Jesus calls the crowd gathered there with the disciples, and says to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?  Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?  Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels,” and finishing the conversation, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

            Does everyone have this scene in their mind?  Can you place yourselves there among the crowd, hearing the words of Jesus as they are spoken?  Wondering if you will be one of these to witness the power of the Kingdom of God?

            Now, let’s move forward six days later, where we have Peter, James and John following Jesus up a high mountain.  They were by themselves, just the four of them, making their way to the top of mountain.

            Mark points out there are just the four of them to make this journey to let the reader know ahead of time there is no one else with them.  Perhaps, so as not to confuse the fact Moses and Elijah will appear from heaven, and were not to be mistaken for others who might have traveled up the mountain with Jesus and the three disciples.

            When they reach the top of the mountain, Jesus was transfigured before them, and became dazzling white.  Can’t you see it there, a bright, white light, almost blinding to Peter, James and John, to the point they raise their arm to protect their eyes.

            In the brightness, as they try to see what is happening, they see Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.  Elijah, Moses and Jesus were having a conversation, but what were they talking about there in the dazzling scene?

            For the moment, let’s forget that Peter, James and John are there, and let’s focus on the conversation with Elijah, Moses and Jesus, there in the dazzling white presence of the divine.  What do these three have in common?

            During their lifetime, they all care for the people of Israel, yet Jesus reaches beyond his Jewish upbringing to include the Gentiles.  He moves from the Old Testament Laws and brings a New Covenant revealing God to all people of every nation.

            Moses wanders 40 years in the desert, Jesus is 40 days in the wilderness.

            They all receive and relay the Word of God to the people.


            Moses was recorded as having died on a mountain, but his body was not located.  Deuteronomy reads that Christ himself, with the angels who had buried Moses, came down from heaven to call for the sleeping Saint.  Therefore, some believe Moses also was taken up to heaven by God, in a similar fashion as Elijah, and did not suffer a physical death.

Jude 9 tells us that the resurrection of Moses was God’s answer to Satan that Satan did not have dominion over the people of the earth.

            Elijah, like Jesus, is a miracle worker, and God performs many miracles through him, including resurrection.  Bringing fire down from the sky, God takes Elijah to heaven alive as Elijah is caught up in a whirlwind.

            The book of Malachai prophesies Elijah’s return with phrasing that includes, “before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord,” making Elijah a forerunner of the Christ to come.

            So what does this all mean, as the three of them have a heavenly conversation there on this Transfiguration Day, there among the dazzling white presence of the divine?

            The Gospel of Luke tells us Moses and Elijah “appeared in glory and were speaking of Jesus’ departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.”

            The Greek word translated here as “departure” or exodos is the same term that is used by the Old Testament Bible for the departure of Hebrews from Egypt.  Here on this day of transfiguration, Moses and Elijah learn in their conversation with Jesus, that Jesus will soon lead an exodus from bondage at the Holy City, just as Moses had led the people from slavery out of Egypt.  This exodus that involves Jesus will include his death, resurrection and ascension.

            Jesus meets with the two prophets of the old law, to relay a new covenant to come, a new promise that is about to take place that involves Jesus, the Son of God, the Christ child, and he will free from bondage all those who believe that he is the Beloved Son of God. 

            As the conversation is taking place, Peter begins to talk, rather than listen, and God’s voice breaks through the clouds to inform all present, that this is his Son, the Beloved, in whom he is well pleased.  “Listen to him!!”  Don’t talk, listen.  How often we talk when we are called to listen.  Are we listening to Jesus today?

            Paul reminds us in our first reading today, that it is God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness.”  Just as Jesus became dazzling white signifying a divine presence, he still shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

            When we allow ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with the dazzling white presence of Jesus, we too, will shine in goodness to all of our neighbors.  Words are not always necessary when we want to share the gospel of the glory of Christ, sometimes it just means we listen and simply shine bright for others to know they are loved, to let them know Jesus is near and will take care of them.

(Silent Reflection)

*Cover Image from Pixabay, free to use.