2 kings 2: 1-12 (page 307 in our pew Bibles) The original "Chariots of fire!" when the prophet Elijah is taken up into heaven
2 Corinthians 4: 3-6 (page 965 in our pew Bibles) The light of the gospel is veiled from many people who can't see the glory of Jesus - particularly pertinent in modern Britain perhaps?
Mark 9: 2-9 (page 844 in our pew Bibles) The Transfiguration of Jesus might fit better in Epiphany you'd think, but also brings the tragedy of the impending crucifixion into sharper focus
There are two people in the old testament who apparently don’t die and they are Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah who was taken up into heaven on a fiery chariot.
Perhaps because of this, the tradition that Elijah would return to herald the messiah grew as we explored in Advent, Jesus saw John the Baptist fulfilling that role.
Elijah also came to symbolise the entire tradition of the prophets to the Israelites which is why he appears at the Transfiguration in our gospel story today.
As a side issue, when Elisha requests a double portion or double share of his Spirit that isn’t being greedy; what is meant by that is that he wants the two thirds share in the estate that is inherited by the eldest son from his father (Deut 21:17). What this means is that Elisha wants to be Elijah’s successor, his heir to this pre-eminent prophetic role.
But today it is not the prophetic tradition or the law that is being focussed on, it is the glory of God shining out from the face of Jesus Christ.
When Paul and his gospel are being questioned or derided, he returns to that gospel with increased fervour. He says of his and his helpers’ ministry
“For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake”
When Paul talks about the gospel being veiled from People let’s not forget he was talking out of his own experience. Paul or Saul as was known originally knew enough about Jesus to persecute the young church and it needed a tremendous religious experience or encounter with God to persuade him otherwise. The power and magnitude of that experience, forcing Paul to make a decision is what affected George Appleby and at his funeral on Friday Paul’s conversion story was read at his funeral.
Which brings us nicely to another mysterious but powerful God event known in the trade as a theophany.
In the transfiguration, the miracle happens to Jesus rather than being done by Him.
There are other places in Mark where three or four of the disciples are taken apart from the twelve for an event that reveals something about Jesus but what is being revealed here?
Who Jesus actually is in relation to God and the entire Jewish tradition is being revealed here.
Jesus is not one of three, Elijah representing prophesy and Moses the law, for whom Peter has to build three shelters; Jesus is greater than both of them.
His demeanour was dazzling white and then appeared a cloud, which is biblical code for the presence of God and out of the cloud comes the voice of God,
“This is my son, the beloved, listen to Him”
And to stress that point Moses and Elijah disappear leaving only Jesus.
There is a strong contrast being made.
Jesus exceeds all others and is not to be placed alongside any of them. – he is not one rabbi among many.
Faith in Jesus exceeds all other kind of faith in the limitlessness of its demands.
He will die for everybody and what he requires of his followers is the willingness to give him complete assent.