The Vision on the Mountain
by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
AT ONE time while Jesus was staying in one of the villages at the foot of Mount Hermon, in the far north of the land, he took with him three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, and went up the mountain to pray. It was in the afternoon, when they walked up the mountain, and when night came on he was still in prayer. The three disciples were tired from climbing the mountain and fell asleep for a little time. When they awoke they were filled with wonder at the change which had come over their Lord.
Although it was night, they saw the face of Jesus shining as brightly as the sun at noon, with a dazzling glory so great that they could not bear to look upon him. His clothes too were shining white and glittering. Not only his face, but his hands, his feet and even his body beamed through his garments with brightness.
They saw standing beside Jesus in his splendor two men who had lived long before on the earth and were now living no more. How the disciples knew them we are not told. Perhaps the knowledge flashed upon their minds, given them by God; or it may have been that as they listened to these two men, they learned from their words who they were. One was the great prophet Moses, who led the Israelites out of Egypt and died on Mount Nebo; the other was the prophet Elijah, who spoke bold words to the wicked King Ahab and was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. Both these men had passed from earth many hundred years before.
As the three disciples looked and listened, they could hear what these two prophets of the old times were saying. They were talking to Jesus about his death which was to take place at Jerusalem. So these two great men of the past knew already what Jesus had tried to tell his disciples, and what they were so slow to believe, that he was soon to die!
Peter was always eager to speak, and he spoke now, though he scarcely understood what his own words meant.
"Master," he said, "this is a good place for us to stay in. If you are willing, I will make here three tents; one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."
He thought that the two prophets, Moses and Elijah, had come back to stay upon the earth; and that if tents were made for them, they would live upon that mountain.
While Peter was speaking a bright and glorious cloud came over them all, over Jesus, over the two prophets and over the three disciples, who were filled with fear as they found the cloud around them. And a greater fear came upon them as they heard the voice of God out of the cloud saying:
"This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I delight. Listen to him!"
And as they heard these words, knowing that God had spoken them, they fell down upon their faces in great terror. Jesus came to them and touched them gently, saying:
"Rise up, and do not be afraid."
Then they looked up. The bright cloud had passed away, the two prophets were no longer to be seen, and Jesus was standing alone over them, some of the glory still remaining upon his face.
As they were walking down the mountain, Jesus said to his three disciples, Peter, James and John:
"Tell no one what you have seen this night, until the Son of Man has risen from the dead."
So, much as they wished to tell their fellow-disciples of this wonderful sight, they obeyed their Master, and said not a word about it while Jesus was still with them.
They said to Jesus, "How is it that the teachers of the law say that the prophet Elijah must come before the Messiah-King appears?"
"Elijah does come," answered Jesus, "and he prepares the way for the coming of the King. And I tell you that Elijah has already come, but the people have not known him. They would not listen to him, and have done to him as they pleased. And just as it was with him, so will it be with the Son of Man. He shall also suffer at the hands of men."
Then the disciples understood that Jesus was speaking to them of John the Baptist, who like Elijah had lived in the wilderness, wore a mantle of skin, and fed on desert-food, and who, like Elijah, gave God's message to the people, preparing the way for the coming of Jesus Christ.