May 18, 2015
“I couldn’t do that. Could you do that? Why can they do it? Who are those guys?”
That’s what Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) said to Sundance (Robert Redford) from the top of a cliff, as the posse that unrelenting – and, gaining on them – was tracking them through rocks (1969).
It could have been the comment by Peter – to James and John – as Jesus had climbed up on a hilltop, and met two men who had just appeared out of nowhere. The three of them had been brought along by the Boss…
Jesus was “transfigured before them;” (Matthew 17:2) his man-mask was temporarily removed, and his radiance replaced the camouflage he adopted for his trip to Earth. If that wasn’t enough, two characters – who seemed hauntingly familiar – appeared out of thin-air, and began talking with Jesus. The three tag-along fishermen watched as the dialog intensified, as if they had relationship among them that stretched back into the past.
Peter, James and John watch as Jesus, Moses and Elijah engage in interaction about things that were beyond them. What a scene: three men who would become famous in the future watch as three men who were famous from the past get caught-up.
There were interesting moments of dialog for these three icons. Moses had been in the wilds – working as a herdsman – when a bush-on-fire started a conversation. It was God in the bush. Later, he would spend 40 days on Mount Sinai, and the God-from-the-bush would be the God-on-the-mountain. Now, he’s on the Mount of Transfiguration with him, again engaged in deep discussion.
Elijah had heard God’s voice, 800 years after Moses did – and 800 years before Peter and the guys did. He had selected Elijah for Special Forces duty, in the army of God. The target: a godless pair who had taken over the palace of Israel, posing as ordained royalty. Ahab and Jezebel were enemies of Jehovah, and God took them on, through Elijah. God had provided power for miracles, fire from heaven, and quiet insight while Elijah was cocooning in a mountain cave, on-the-run from Jezebel’s threats.
Jesus, Moses and Elijah: these guys had history, and they were frequently in the mountains when the encounters took place.
Peter was so impressed that he was ready to start a building program: “Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah!’” (Matthew 17:4). Jesus canceled the architect and closed the capital campaign down before it could get off the ground: he wasn’t looking for any buildings to be erected; he was looking for the movement to explode forward without being tied-down by real estate.
Jesus, Moses and Elijah: what’s special – beyond the obvious – about those three historic leaders in God’s plan and work through the timespan of history? Three things about the three men stand out.
First: each of them knew their personal mission – their calling – and they didn’t initiate the main season of their life work until they were mid-life, or beyond. Seasoned, experienced, with their career years as a foundation for their next initiatives. Their historic performance started when most of their age contemporaries were winding down.
Second: these three led during the brief points in Bible history when God used miracles to get the attention of the distracted. Moses, Elijah and Jesus presided over the supernatural phases of God’s patient efforts with the rebellious race.
Third: each of these gave serious attention to training their successors. Moses prepped Joshua; Elijah tagged Elisha; Jesus trained the Twelve – Peter, James and John among them – so that the miracles could continue, and the work would accelerate after each of the three had uncommon endings.
I wonder if there’s anything to learn from those three…