Monday, February 8, 2010

A New Moses and a New Exodus

In Luke 9:28-36, the passage normally referred to as the transfiguration (though Luke does not use that word as Matthew and Mark do), Jesus, Peter, James, and John go up on a mountain to pray. This should be our first clue that something important is about to happen since important things happen on mountains in the Bible. One especially important event in Israel's story took place on a mountain; the giving of the Law to Moses. Luke tells us that while Jesus was praying the appearance of his face became different and his clothing became white and gleaming. Moses, too, found that his face was radiant after he had received the ten commandments from God. Then we find out that Moses and Elijah, two of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament, show up and begin speaking with Jesus. Furthermore, their conversation with one another centers around the exodus (many translations have the word "departure" in v. 31 but the Greek word is the same one used to refer to God's deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt) which Jesus is about to accomplish in Jerusalem. At this point, Peter, James, and John awaken from the sleep that had overcome them. Peter, stumbling over his own excitement at what he sees, wants to hang on to this moment so he suggests that they build three tabernacles (again, some translations simply say "shelters" but the word is the same one used to refer to the tent that represented God's presence with Israel while Moses was their leader). Finally, a cloud envelops them much as it enveloped Moses on Mount Sinai and a voice speaks from the cloud saying "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!" These are similar to the words spoken from heaven at Jesus' baptism only now the command "Listen to Him!" is added, echoing the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 when he spoke of the prophet that God would raise up like him for the people of Israel.

Sensing a theme here? Jesus is the new Moses and God is accomplishing a new exodus, a new great deliverance, and a new people. God had worked through Moses not only to deliver the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt but also to call them into covenant community by giving them the Law and teaching them how to live as God's holy people. Now God would do the same thing through Jesus. Only instead of delivering Israel from physical slavery through miraculous plagues and giving laws on stone tablets now God would deliver all people from their slavery to sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus and fill them with his Spirit so that they might live his life of holiness.

Of course, no single passage of scripture can exhaust all that there is to say about who Jesus is or who we are through him but this passage captures much of both. Jesus is the mighty deliverer who has the power to break the chains of our bondage to sin and death. We, the Church, are the new exodus community that has been and is being delivered so that we might be free to live the abundant life to which Jesus calls us and help deliver others from their bondage as well.

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