What does this celebrity status coverage of Elijah, by way of his pal Moses, tell us modern day Christians? The way to become one of Jesus’ close friends is to let his Holy Spirit lead us to witness. Elijah allowed that to happen. Moses did too.
No one in heaven was surprised or jealous that Jesus picked those two for the Transfiguration.
Image by Rudy Anderson
By John Pearring
Today’s first reading is from Sirach, who introduces us to Elijah, an off-the-charts charismatic a full 900 years before Christ. He’s essential to Christianity because he shows up at the Transfiguration of Jesus with Moses. Moses holds the record for years between witness events at 1,700, but that’s more to the point of Elijah's importance. He's uniquely connected to Moses.
Many theologians hint that the two witnesses in the Book of Revelation might well be Moses and Elijah. At 2,000 years and counting, if the witnesses of Jesus' return are Elijah and Moses, they’ll share the record of ancient apparitions.
The reason scholars believe Elijah will join Moses to announce the return of Jesus?
You were destined, it is written, in time to come
to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD,
To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons,
and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob.
There is a future for Elijah. The “wrath” that Elijah will reportedly end isn’t something that’s already taken place. Why? The “day of the Lord” is associated with Jesus’ second coming.
Elijah is an amazing guy, performing miracles, from changing the weather to raising the dead. He breathed rarified air. If you’ve met anybody like that, you should be making a documentary and not keeping it to yourself.
Another clue to Elijah’s rarity is that prophets are compared to him, not the other way around. He fulfills an exceptional quality, similar to Moses and Melchizedek — those who follow him in scripture are reportedly filled with his spirit. Elisha and John the Baptist are the two most clearly identified Elijah-like prophets in scripture.
The Transfiguration event answered the question of who Jesus would pick as his holy witnesses from Heaven. I think it’s the same question in Revelation. Who are two of the Son of God’s oldest and closest friends who will witness his return? The Book of Revelation describes two “witnesses” amid God’s wrath in Chapter 11. Their descriptions are fascinating.
“I will commission my two witnesses to prophesy for those twelve hundred and sixty days, wearing sackcloth. . . . They have the power to close up the sky so that no rain can fall during the time of their prophesying. They also have power to turn water into blood and to afflict the earth with any plague as often as they wish.”
(Revelation 11:3 and 6)
That description fits both Moses and Elijah to a T.
If God uses his closest friends for epochal moments in the universe's history, then Elijah and Moses are his guys. At the Transfiguration, the two confirmed Jesus’ holy and divine presence for all time, revealed in blazing light to Peter, James, and John. In the last days of the final age, before Jesus returns, Elijah and Moses could be the two witnesses who confirm to the whole world that Jesus is coming back with the saints and the angels.
You can read the whole scene of Jesus with Moses and Elijah at the transformation here - https://bible.usccb.org/bible/luke/9. And you can read the entire scene of the two witnesses at the announcement of the second coming here - https://bible.usccb.org/bible/revelation/11. The Revelation story, where I’m inserting Elijah and Moses, is a horror show that ends in their resurrection for all to see.
The two witnesses described in Revelation match the prophetic exploits of Moses and Elijah’s lives on earth. Elijah closed up the sky, holding back the rain. He did that three times. Moses had the power to afflict the Egyptians with plagues ten times, including turning water into blood. Coincidence? Can’t be.
Further, Elijah was likened to Moses throughout scripture as a significant force among the world’s authorities. Elijah lived in the 9th Century BC and Moses in the 17th Century BC. They’re not close in history but similarly significant. Jesus made friends with these two before his incarnation.
Moses and Elijah didn’t work alone. They had spokespersons in Aaron and Obadiah. Their wives were introduced to the men through a request for water — one at a well, the other at a river. They both suffered plagues upon their adversaries and dealt with God upon a mount — Elijah on Carmel and Moses on Sinai. They encountered the passing glory of the Lord in the same dagnabbed cave in Horeb. Lots of syncopated events there.
Moses easily deserves such epic attention. Ordinary folks like us, though, don’t place Elijah so quickly into that heavenly pay grade. Scripture, however, mentions him fourteen times. That’s a big deal in God’s eyes.
Malachi mentions God sending Elijah on the day of the Lord, the coming of God’s wrath, just like Sirach:
Behold I will send you the prophet Elijah before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
What does this celebrity status coverage of Elijah, by way of his pal Moses, tell us modern-day Christians? To become one of Jesus’ close friends, let his Holy Spirit lead us to witness. Elijah allowed that to happen. Moses did too. No one in heaven was surprised or jealous that Jesus picked those two for the Transfiguration.
I genuinely believe we’re no different than Elijah. Certainly not to Jesus. I’m spotty in my witnessing. I want to stretch those times into a flowing river. This is the same message of Mary, Joseph, Jonah, Moses, and that holy person you know personally. They waited to be asked. Most argued for a bit, but they eventually said, “Yes.”
Isn’t that just like us? “Yeah, but …” we say when told we can be mighty witnesses for God. The best excuse is, “Things were different back then.”
It’s not a matter of the big stuff passing us by. God has plenty to do. That’s the thing about friendship among us only humans. We love each other. Some of us died on the beach of war or gave our lives to work to raise a family. The part that matters is not to compromise our faithfulness to those we love.
We know what’s the right thing to do because when we fail at it, we are remorseful, repentant, and beg forgiveness.
More extraordinary than problematic is that all we need to do is wait for God’s prompting, even through our testing of him. We do the little witnessing we know he wants. Those times are within our power. God has fantastic capabilities when we befriend him. We just might be witnessing to the world.