THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD “ENTER ~ JESUS”
FEBRUARY 14, 20212 KINGS 2:1-12
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
I once heard this event of the Transfiguration of Jesus compared to one act of a stage play. I’m going to assume that all of us have seen a ‘stage play’; maybe when you were in school you were part of the cast or crew, or you’ve gone to a school play where your children or grandchildren are actors; you get to see them dress up, & play their part as a story is told.
That story has an author & director; a play has main characters & minor actors, & things going on backstage; there’s a plot & flow to the story in many ‘acts’, & actors wait in the wings of the stage for their entrances & exits; you recognize them by their costumes.
So, I suppose our dramatic salvation-story might compare to a play, being acted out in human history, with Jesus’ Transfiguration being one vivid scene. Wm.Shakespeare, in one of his plays of 1599 (As You Like It) wrote these familiar words: All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man -in his time- plays many parts.
One of those men is Elijah. As we heard in 2 Kings 2, the prophet Elijah was on the world’s stage in his day; he then made a dramatic ‘exit-stage-left’, and then waited for his next entrance while many other acts & actors continued the story. *How could the next actor, Elisha, follow up Elijah’s performance? It seems that everyone knew what the script called for. Those that were at the prophet training-school in Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take away your master from over you?” And he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”
The same lines were written for the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho. I don’t know how, but Elisha knew that his master’s time was complete, and Elijah would be leaving that day; but he was in no mood to talk about it.
Knowing about Elijah’s exit ahead of time was remarkable; & then the exit itself was mindboggling. Maybe Elisha didn’t want to leave his master’s side because he thought it was right that he be there when Elijah died; and death is the normal way we all exit the stage of life. No wonder he was shocked when Elijah did NOT die.
In all human history, only one other man left the world’s stage without dying, and we hear very briefly about him in Genesis 5. It was Enoch. Just 6 generations from Adam, we’re told how each of them was born, had a son, lived more years & then died. But with Enoch, different words are used. It says, “Enoch walked with God, and then he was not, for God took him.” (Gen 5:24). All the others died = including great Abraham & great Moses! You & I should also expect to die = that’s the normal exit.
But, for Enoch & Elijah, God had them ‘take their bow’ in a different way. As we heard, when Elijah & Elisha walked & talked, “…behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, ‘My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ And he saw him no more.”
Like Enoch = Elijah didn’t die; unlike Enoch = Elijah’s part on the world’s stage was not yet done. Elijah had to wait backstage for a time; for a long time = almost 900 years. Dozens of generations of actors came on stage to perform their own parts. Such as: /the line of kings from David continued for another 300 years; /the kingdom of Israel was divided & conquered & the people were scattered; /the Assyrian & Babylonian nations rose up & died away; /Greece became a power, and then the Roman Empire.
All the while, the Lord had a full supporting cast of one prophet after another: /Isaiah, /Jeremiah, /Ezekiel, /& Daniel & more all had their time on center stage to deliver the lines prepared for them. And yet, the Lord made sure Elijah was not forgotten. With the final prophet, Malachi, which is the last book of the Old Testament, in the last chapter & the 2nd-to-last verse, the Lord speaks this word: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” (Mal 4:5).
At this point in Biblical history there is an ‘intermission’. Our salvation play has not stopped; but for 400 years, we don’t see the plot advancing; the author’s words are not heard, and the director’s hand is not seen. Then, when the intermission is over, from backstage, a new character comes on the scene. He enters in our ordinary way: being born of a woman; except that his mother was uncommonly old when she gave birth to him; and he was not given a family name, his father insisted his name was ‘John’.
His parents had been told he would play an important part in the play. In fact, it started when he was still in the womb; baby John was stirred with the Holy Spirit, and he leaped for joy when he was brought near to another baby growing in another womb. John perceived that the promised ‘great & awesome day of the Lord’ was drawing near.
The play now jumps ahead about 30 years, and we hear of John preaching & teaching out by the Jordan River, and Baptizing people with repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
The vital role he played was preparing the hearts & minds of people for the Lord’s Messiah. To the people then, John’s prophetic words, & his costume of camel’s hair & a leather belt was very familiar. We remember that the people asked John, “Are you Elijah?”
And he told them, ‘no; not in the way you’re thinking.’ And before John’s time is done on stage, he gets to leap for joy one more time. When that certain man came near to him again, John called out, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn 1:29). And then John exits, ‘stage right’, in death = like everyone does. (except for two!)
For any of us watching this important Biblical play, a most significant thing has now occurred; it’s a turning point. That is, the Writer, the Author Himself, has now taken the stage. *Why is this important? Because, at the very beginning, everything in the script was called ‘very good’, but it had quickly gone ‘all wrong.’ The whole production became ruined by terrible actors & untrained characters, ignoring the Writer’s script, improvising their roles, chaotically entering & exiting at their own arrogant will & terrible timing; the whole play of creation had become a haphazard mess.
What was so beautifully conceived & perfectly written in the beginning had unfolded as a complete shambles at the hands of wicked performers. The play deserved to be ‘canceled’ & shut down; all the actors deserved to be fired. This is why John had been made such a startling character. His message was a stern warning cry, like Elijah’s: Cut – cut! Fill-in the valleys & bring down the mountains! ‘Stop the chaos, get back in line, because the Author has arrived; He sees, and He knows. The time has come for the final act.’
So, ‘enter’ the Author of Life, the Lord = the Savior, who comes to restore all things. Jesus’ costume was humanity & humility, just as the prophets foretold. This One comes into the scene, not as an actor playing someone else, but as God Himself, Immanuel, the Writer & Director in person.
He knows the whole story inside-out; He knows the plot better than everyone, and He will do things perfectly. And to make sure we all understand that the play is reaching its finale, this is what He said to the people who had come out to John the Baptizer. He said, ‘what did you go out to see at the River, a man dressed in fine clothing, a weak character?
I tell you, John IS the Elijah, who was to come.’ You see, John came in the spirit & power of Elijah for his important role; even as the real Elijah was still waiting backstage. Most people would not see Elijah with their eyes; but a few chosen witnesses would = at the right time.
Finally, the wait was over. The scenery is a hill, a mount, where Jesus brings with Him Peter, and brothers James & John. And according to the script, ‘Enter Moses’, the man chosen to be the Lawgiver of Exodus; the one the Director chose to lead God’s people out of slavery, and to be a mediator with God. And then ‘Enter Elijah.’ At last, after so long waiting backstage, the word is fulfilled and the prophet returns before the final act.
For just a moment, Jesus’s stage-mask is pulled back, and He is seen as He really IS,
no costume, as radiant as the sun. The primary witness for this is the OT cloud of God’s divine presence, along with the NT fulfillment of the Father’s voice which says, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”
In the great world-story, those three disciples feel very small, afraid to be on the same stage with other three. But, *are there three? Because, “…suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.” (Mk 9:8) It was very dramatic that Moses and Elijah-of-old had a reprisal & reentered the world stage; but their exit was even more important to the plot. Their exit at this event means that the old Law is over, and the former prophecy is now past, and God was doing a new thing.
The Law & prophecy had their time, but they were now done. That’s what we learn thru Paul. He says, “As for prophecies, they will pass away.” (1 Cor 13:8), and he says, ‘the Law’ “was our guardian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal 3:24).
The Law & the prophets, Moses & Elijah, are now gone; both replaced & fulfilled in the One who remained = ‘this is my beloved Son,’ the One we will all listen to.
Plot-wise, the scene will change, as we ride into Jerusalem, with Palm branches waving over the One who is welcomed as the Son of David. Then the religious leaders and the crowds cry out for His crucifixion. Jesus will make His exit on Golgotha, and there won’t be any rescue from the fiery chariots & horses of Israel. For the Lamb of God, it will be the fiery anger of God over our sin; it will be abject humiliation, monstrous suffering, with the hell of total abandonment, and then a cold stone tomb. And all this was not for what He had done; but for what you & I have done. And yet, it’s not quite ‘curtains.’
The transfiguration had hinted at the finale, when Jesus was seen in His glory.
Jesus would make another entrance on stage. Unlike Elijah, He would not wait centuries, but just 3 days. Having died in agony & shame for us, it was only a short time and the disciples saw Him again in resurrection victory. This means that the old death is now defeated; He lives, never to die again. And even tho Jesus made another exit-in-ascension, we have His own promise that He will have one more entrance; when every eye will see Him, and every knee will bow.
And so, *what are WE to do while we wait for the final curtain? There’s some truth to what Wm.Shakespear wrote, that “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” We have each had our own entrance on the same stage as The Author, Jesus.
And our Director has assigned us our parts, according to His own good will & purpose. We are God’s children, we have been called to be Jesus’ students & followers. We have been Baptized into His death to sin, and so we have received His new birth into a new life of faith & right living.
He has brought us into His cast & crew so that we will bear witness to His plan of the world’s salvation. So, in your place & time, you have an important role to play. Our Director has given you an entrance and assigned you your parts; follow His script with courage & hope in Christ; and be ready to take your bow & make your exit. The cast-party will be an eternal celebration!