For anyone who has ever taken an arplane on a trip, you know that there are certain protocol you must follow. For example, you must take off your shows and empty your pockets in order to go through the security checkpoint so that they can run your stuff through the x-ray machine. It is standard protocol at the airport to check in any luggage you need to check in. Sometime during the whole ordeal at the airport, you will have to find the gate you will be flying out of. So you walk over to several television sets which have every flight flying out of the airport for a certain number of hours. These television sets are separated into two categories: Arrivals and Departures.
Planes are going everywhere: San Antonio, Detroit, New York, Miami, Phoenix, Fresno, Lubbock, Seattle, etc, each labeled with an airline, a flight number, and a gate number. You search the screens for your flight, find it, learn what gate it is departing from, and move toward it. Jesus had a moment similar to this in Luke 9.28-36. You see Jesus is approaching the screens of life, but he is not looking for arrivals – he has been there done that. No, he is looking for his departure flight. And the gate he will be leaving from is in Jerusalem.
Since Jesus had explicated the characteristics of a disciple, it has been eight days. Luke is meticulous in his recod keeping, even down to the day. Jesus takes three of his disciples (Peter, John, and James) onto a mountainside to pray. Luke again emphasizes the prayer life of Jesus; he is in constant communication with the Father because he understands that it is only through his continued reliance on the Father through prayer that he will do what he has do and that is die for all of mankind. We don’t know how long he was praying, but it implied that it was long enough that his disciple grew weary. The Greek says they were “burdened with sleep.” Maybe all the hustle and bustle of the crowds, maybe all the walking, maybe it was late in the day…whatever the reason, the disciples are a bit groggy. But it is during this prayer time that something magnificent happens: Jesus is transfigured.
Luke tells us it was as bright as the flashing of lightning (v.30). Matthew says it was “as white as light” (Matt 17.2). Mark tells us no bleach in all the world could have washed the garments of Jesus as white as they were then (Mark 9.3). Peter, an eyewitness, calls this his “majesty” (2 Peter 1.16). Not only this, his face was changed (v.29) which Matthew says it “shone as the sun.” Indeed, something special has happened to Jesus. For a brief moment, the curtain of Jesus’ humanity has been pulled back and the brilliance of the glory of his majesty has come shining forth. All of this points to one unchanging fact: Jesus is God!
Luke, and indeed all three synoptic writers agree, records that Jesus has a conversation with Moses and Elijah. Why Moses and Elijah? At best our guesses would only be conjecture. Some would say because you have the great lawgiver and the great representative of the prophets. Others point to the fact that these were men who on mountainsides beheld a manifestation of the glory of God. Nevertheless, they appear with same brilliant splendor that Jesus has. And why are they there? To talk with Jesus. But this is not just some “sit-down-to-tea” type conversation; there is business to attend to, namely the departure of Jesus. This word “departure” is our English word “exodus” (Greek ezodon). The spoke of Jesus’ exodus.
This ‘exodus’ was to be fulfilled in Jerusalem. However, its fulfillment was not to be accomplished by the Jews or the Romans; this exodus is accomplished by Jesus himself. No man controlled the road Jesus tread upon, no man controlled the destiny of the Son of God. He was in complete control from start to finish. He died when he wanted to and not a second sooner or later. Everything in the grand scheme of redemption was God ordained and God controlled so that God accomplished it.
As was stated earlier, for whatever reason, the disciples were “very sleepy.” Shaken from their slumber, they awaken to this scene: Moses, Elijah, Jesus! The beheld the glory of the Son of God as well as the glory of Moses and Elijah. The chat ends, Moses and Elijah leave (how they came and went is beyond me), and Peter, perhaps stunned by everything he has just taken is, makes a bold charge: he wants to build tabernacles for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Obviously something amazing has happened and Peter wants to honor these men.
It is God who steps forth to proclaim the reality of this event. It was not to demonstrate that Jesus is now on equal footing with Moses and Elijah; rather, Jesus is superior to them. God descends in a cloud upon the mountain, encomapssing the disciples, inciting fear into them. The voice of the Majestic One utters forth the command: “Listen to Him!” Moses and Elijah were great prophets of old, but now there is one who superior to them, the greatest prophet of all. He is the unique Son of God, hand-picked by God to perform the work he must accomplish.
For the time, the disciples will keep this quiet. Why? Terror, maybe. Matthew records that Jesus told them not to speak of it, pointing to the fact that Jesus is in control of the whole situation, his very life. But there will come a time when they do proclaim it and tell everyone about it. Peter wrote of it in one of his epistles.
With his death, Jesus began a mass exodus. He opened up a “new and living way” by which man can enter and find salvation. But there is only flight leaving the terminal and just as it was for Jesus, the departure gate in in Jerusalem. If we do not follow Jesus to the departure gate, following him to the cross every single day, we cannot have access to this exodus. Jesus points us the way to the gate which is the way of the cross. It is as much a part of our life as it was for Jesus; everyday, when he looked to Jerusalem, he knew what was coming. Everyday spent in Jerusalem drew him closer to the hour of his departure. Hence, the cross in the disciple’s life can have no smaller part. It comsumes our very essence and is what identifies a disciple of Christ. So check your ticket (the Bible) and recognize you, as a disciple, have a flight to catch.