This week’s common lectionary gospel text is Luke 9:28-36, known as The Transfiguration. In this passage, Jesus climbs a mountain with some of his disciples. Jesus goes alone up to the top of the mountain, and this is what Luke tells us happens next:
“While [Jesus] was in prayer, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became blinding white. At once two men were there talking with him. They turned out to be Moses and Elijah—and what a glorious appearance they made! They talked over his exodus, the one Jesus was about to complete in Jerusalem.”
Now, the common Bible translations don’t use the concept of “complete the exodus” in Jerusalem. Instead, their language is “accomplish his departure”. Eugene Peterson, who wrote The Message interpretation, is known for trying to communicate the meaning of the text rather than aiming for word-for-word accuracy, so I decided to check for myself. The Greek words are, indeed, exodon (exodus) and pleroun (full or complete).
So Jesus really did go to Jerusalem to fulfill the exodus. It’s obvious why the more common translations don’t want to use the word “fulfill”. The history of Christians claiming that Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish covenants is pretty ugly (see supersession), so we do well to exercise caution. Thankfully, I think there is a way to engage the spiritual dimension of this without suggesting that Jewish convenants are “unfulfilled”, and while being clear that God did not transfer the promises or status as “chosen people” to Christians. All we need to do is set aside any intent to see The Truth about covenants, the relationship between Jews and Christians, and the true nature of Jesus. Instead, we can ask God to speak to us through the text and invite God to teach us about God’s relationship with Jesus and Jesus’ path to freedom. We can ask God to reveal truth about our own personal covenant with God, and show us our own spiritual bondage and path to freedom.
Queries for prayerful consideration:
If Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are “the completion of his exodus”, when did his exodus begin?
In what other ways is the ministry of Jesus similar to Moses leading the the Israelites out of Egyptian captivity?
In what ways has Jesus led you out of bondage?
What still holds you in bondage?
How will Jesus free you from captivity?