As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. Then they asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ He said to them, ‘Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.’
The transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor is usually celebrated in both the Eastern and Western churches on the 6th August. The Orthodox Eastern churches know this celebration as the “Taborion”. As the disciples descended from the mountain, Jesus instructs them to tell no one about what they had just witnessed at the top of the mountain. Even so, what did Jesus mean when speaking about resurrection?
The Jews believed that the coming of the Messiah would be preceded by Elijah who would be a herald announcing the coming of the Messiah (see Malachi 4 v 5,6). The rabbinic tradition was that this would occur some three days before the arrival of the Messiah. On each of the three days Elijah would make an announcement concerning the coming of the Messiah. On the first day, the announcement would be one of peace for the world. On the second day the announcement would be one of good coming to the world, and on the third day he would cry “Jeshuah” (salvation) will come to the world.
No doubt the thought crossed the disciples’ minds that if Jesus was really the Messiah then what happened to Elijah? Jesus’ answer was that the people of Elijah’s day imposed their standards and limitations on Elijah’s ministry, and in so doing they ignored God’s will. This was their historic approach to the coming of the Messiah, Have our expectations moved away from the saving grace of the cross and resurrection and just focussed on our own self indulgences? Unfortunately, even on Sundays, the media tends to encourage us to focus more on a secular approach to Sunday rather than considering a more reflective life.
Gracious God, like generations past we choose to adopt our ways and traditions rather than Your way of peace, hope and love. Forgive us, forgive our selfishness and lead us by Your Spirit to a more open and considerate lifestyle that reflects Your plans for us. Break down the barriers that separate us from You, this we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Rev’d Colin Hunt, retired minister, member of Hutton & Shenfield Union Church, Essex