The glory of God revealed on Mount Tabor is dazzling. It is rightly seen as a vision of the glory of the created universe in all its materiality as well as a vision of the glory of the resurrected life. The presence of Moses and Elijah, representing Torah and the prophets, adds the weight of Jewish history to the moment and the voice from Heaven proclaiming Jesus as the beloved son entwines itself into this glory. But this turns out to be a strange glory as the world understands glory.
Moses was hounded out of Egypt after killing the Egyptian who was oppressing a fellow Jew and then was the object of threatened violence several times from the people he liberated from Egypt. Elijah was a persecuted prophet who lived only because he fled the wrath of Ahab and Jezebel. God proclaimed the king to be God’s son in in whom God delighted in Psalm two where the nations raged against each other and the other kings rose up against God and God’s anointed, i.e. the beloved son. The servant in Isaiah was declared God’s son in whom God delighted and this same servant was despised and rejected by his own people and “cut off from the land of the living.”
On the way down from the mountain, Jesus tells the disciples who came with him not to tell anyone until the “Son of Man” is raised from the dead. The disciples remind Jesus that it was believed that Elijah should come first. Jesus then says that Elijah has already come and people did to him “whatever they pleased,” something Herod saw to.
Jesus is reminding his disciples, and us, that death through collective violence is an old story that has been enacted since Abel to John the Baptist as a current event, and it is a story that is going to continue on in the lives of the apostles and on into our lives as well. It is through following Jesus who followed the prophets before him that we enter the glory of the transfigured life of the created world which explodes into the glory of the resurrected life filled with God’s love for those who do whatever they please with God’s beloved children.