Message from the Mountain

A Sunday School teacher was explaining the fire-drill directions to her grade-school students. “In the event of fire,” she said “I will be the first to leave, then you all will follow me.”A little boy in the back was visibly angered by this! He turned to his friend in utter dismay. “Why should the Teacher go out first?” barked the irritated little boy. “Because,” answered his little friend, “kids you can get anytime but Sunday School teachers are hard to find.”

Do you remember the fire and disaster drills we had when we were in school? As one who grew up in Michigan, I also experienced tornado drills. If you grew up in the 50’s and 60’s you may recall the atomic explosion safety drills. Who could forget the civil defense film entitled Bert the Turtle? He taught the plan to save your life in case of a nuclear explosion. Do you remember what you were supposed to do? “Duck and Cover!” Did we really think that ducking and covering would help?

Having a disaster escape plan is always a good idea! Every family, particularly those with children should have an emergency plan and a clear path to safety. As we turn to the Scriptures in this devotion, we see that God has always had a plan to save His family. In the Old Testament – we find Moses and the Passover. In the New Testament – we have Jesus and the Cross. These are the twin peaks of salvation history. It stands to reason that these two events are at the heart of Hebrew and Christian worship!

Read Matthew 17:1-9 – A Mountain Top Experience

In this passage Jesus is moving ever nearer to Jerusalem. The cross is appearing on the horizon. Now, Jesus, goes up on the mountain and is Transfigured. How are we to understand this mysterious scene? What does the Lord want us to know?

Let’s notice several things here. First, Matthew tells us this is after six days, so, it’s the seventh day. Who is with Jesus? Jesus took with him Peter, and then James and John, two brothers. Jesus went up on the mountain where there was a cloud of glory. Jesus entered the glory cloud! And what happened to Jesus? He was transfigured. The Greek word for transfigured is where we get the word, “metamorphosis.” Jesus was visibly changed! His clothes and his face were shining. Then, God’s voice was heard from the cloud! And the disciples were frightened.

 Now, if you were one of those three Jewish disciples and you saw Jesus’ face shining with glory, what would come to your mind? Any Jewish person would think of Moses on Mount Sinai.

Read Exodus 24:15-18, and 34:29-30 – Another Mountain Top Experience (Look for the similarities)

In Exodus 24, Moses climbed Sinai on the seventh day. He took with him Aaron and then Nadab and Abihu – two brothers. There was a glory could that covered the mountain. Moses entered the cloud. While there, Moses’ appearance was changed and His face shone brightly. God’s voice was heard on the mountain. And, the people were terribly frightened.

Are these echoes from the mountain top just a coincidence? I don’t believe this is happenstance at all. The Holy Spirit is revealing profound truths to us. So, comparing Moses on Sinai and the obvious parallel with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration just begs the question! Given these twin peaks, “what’s new” here for us to learn? 

Could it be that Jesus is being presented as a New Moses? Were the Jewish people looking for a new Moses? That’s a great question! Deuteronomy 18:15 will provide the answer. Here, Moses says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen…” In verse 18, God doubles down on Moses’ prophecy. The Lord says, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” Based on this passage, the Jewish people were indeed looking for a New Moses! Moses and God declare that a New Moses is coming. And Moses said, when he comes, “Listen to Him!”

Let’s look at Matthew 17:5. “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” That settles it! We may conclude with certainty that Jesus is the New Moses. Our comparison reveals Moses as a type or a foreshadowing of Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of the type. Now, the rule of Scriptural interpretation is that no type is greater than its fulfillment. Hebrews 3:3-5 confirms this. “For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son.”

 Jesus is a New and Greater Moses and as the New Moses, He came to lead a New and Greater Exodus. Luke’s account of the transfiguration makes this clear. In Luke 9:30-31 we read, And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. There on the Mountain, Jesus is talking to Moses and Elijah. Moses represents the Law, and Elijah represents the Prophets. Together they represent the entirety of the Old Covenant.  What were they talking about with Jesus? They spoke of His departure that Jesus was about to lead. The Greek word for departure here is EXODOS. Jesus was talking to Moses about the Exodus he was about to lead from Jerusalem! Who better to talk to – Moses was an Exodus expert!

 Nine year old Joey, was asked by his mother what he had learned in Sunday school. “Well, Mom, our teacher told us how God sent Moses behind enemy lines on a rescue mission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. When he got to the Red Sea he had his engineers build a pontoon bridge and all the people walked across safely. Then he used his walkie-talkie to radio headquarters for reinforcements. They sent bombers to blow up the bridge and all the Israelites were saved.” “Now, Joey, is that really what your teacher taught you?” His mother asked. “Well, no, Mom. But if I told it the way the teacher did,  you’d never believe it!”

The first Exodus – the first twin peak – was outlandishly miraculous, BUT, in mere days, Jesus would lead the New and Greater Exodus. Only this would not be a deliverance from bondage to Pharaoh. Jesus would deliver God’s people from bondage to Satan and sin! As Moses and Elijah stood there representing the Old Covenant. Jesus stood with them, presenting the New Covenant. 

Let me ask you, what was the original reason for the Exodus? Exodus 4:22-23 gives us the answer. God’s message to Pharaoh was this, “Israel is my first-born son, so, let my son go that he may worship me.” The Exodus was about establishing a covenant relationship. When Moses and Israel arrived at Sinai, God gave Moses the Word of the Covenant – His Commandments. And it was sealed in a sacred sign as Moses said, “This is the blood the covenant…” and then he sprinkled the altar and the people with the blood.

One-thousand years later, and after generations failed to keep the covenant, Jeremiah prophesied about a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Now, Jesus, the New Moses was about lead the New Exodus, and Jesus, who is the Word of the covenant, would seal the covenant in His own blood. Jesus held out a cup, and said, “This cup is my blood, the blood of the New Covenant.” More echoes from the mountain! 

Moses came to establish the first of the twin peaks. Now, Jesus has come to establish the second and greater of the twin peaks of salvation history. This is God’s saving plan. From that glorious experience, Jesus resolutely turned his face toward Jerusalem. Another mountain was on the horizon – mount Calvary. As the glory cloud subsided, in the distance, at the end of the path – stood a cross. That is where the New Exodus would begin. As the old hymn states, “the way of the cross leads home.” This New and Greater Exodus would not end in an earthly promised land. When we cross over Jordan this time, it will be into the Promised Land of Heaven!

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