The Christian Church Year calendar begins with Advent (December) preparing for the coming Messiah. Next is Christmas—God becomes Man, then the day of the Epiphany—the God-Man prophesied and certified by God the Father. Then comes Lent—the 40-day season of repentance, preparing our hearts for Holy Week, the Passion of the Christ. Easter celebrates Christ’s victory over sin and eternal death. Bridging Epiphany with Lent, just before Ash Wednesday (February 17 this year) is the Sunday of the Transfiguration of our Lord. The Gospel of Mark chapter 9 narrates our Lord ascending above three of His disciples. The Lord begins to glow and is flanked by Moses and Elijah. Perfectly ending Epiphany (“sudden revelation”) the voice of God from the heavens announces “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.”
Psalm 50 sings a “theophany” a term which refers to a visible manifestation of God. It begins with His summoning of the earth. He even speaks (v. 5); He comes, gathers them up to Him and judges His people. The scenery is reminiscent of Sinai, where God reveals His desires for His chosen people. A thick cloud envelops the mountain top. Moses ascended, but the people cannot touch the base of the mountain. It is a holy place and God judges His people unholy: “Hear, O Israel, I will testify against you…” (Psalm 50:7b). But the one “who offers thanksgiving as His sacrifice glorifies me…I will show the salvation of God.” (vs. 23)
At the end of the prophetic ministry of Elijah, the Lord sent him to Bethel, then to Jericho, then to the Jordan river, always followed by Elisha, to meet with the prophets and perhaps summon them all to witness Elijah’s ascent into heaven, witnessed by fifty people. (2 Kings 2:1-12). Impressive but a much lower number than those five hundred who witnessed the resurrection of Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:6) At the Jordan, Elijah rolled up his cloak, struck the Jordan waters which parted and Elisha and Elijah “could go over one dry ground”, reminding the reader of Moses’ leading of the people through the sea, escaping Pharaoh’s vengeful wrath. “Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven”, similarly to the offerings and sacrifices that were burned up on the altar for burnt offering at the sanctuary (Leviticus 9:24). There, the fire caused the offerings to ascend into the heavenly realm.
A fellow pastor observes, “In the New Testament, the fire of God is seen in the flames that rested on the heads of the disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2:3), and John the Baptist preaches about the refining fire of the Holy Spirit that would be given by Christ (Matthew 3:11–12). At Pentecost, the fire is also associated with the sound of a strong wind, which undoubtedly occurred when Elijah went up to heaven. Through the Word and Sacraments, Christians receive the Holy Spirit, who refines them and qualifies them to be received into the heavenly realm now by faith in their glorified bodies.” It is proper to see the glory of Christ flanked by Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets, testifying to the Christ. It is God’s glory to save us, fellow believer. Lent is coming, time to, indeed, listen very carefully, not to the world, but to Him.
Gloria Deo—Glory to God