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The last association is the most meaningful to me: the association of Jesus with Elijah. In the Jewish stories, Elijah’s mountaintop experience in 1 Kings 19 was one of epiphany as his life was threatened for speaking truth to power and while he was deeply discouraged about his mission. I can identify with moments of discouragement while considering one’s life work. I can also imagine Jesus, too, wrestling similarly to Elijah during the last days of his life before the cross.
“He [Elijah] traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Sovereign One came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Sovereign One God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’ The Sovereign One said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Sovereign One, for the Sovereign One is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Sovereign One, but the Sovereign One was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Sovereign One was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Sovereign One was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Sovereign One God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’ The Sovereign One said to him, ‘Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.’”
In our story this week, both Elijah and Moses appear, possibly to encourage Jesus during his own time of discouragement as his own life is in jeopardy. Even the Divine shows up in the story, with words of encouragement, of filial approval repeated from Jesus’ baptism, and the admonishment for Peter, James and John to listen to Jesus.
I can see why the early Jewish Jesus followers would have found solace and encouragement through these associations.
I, too, think of those who I’ve journeyed with along the way who have been an encouragement to me when I’ve had difficult decisions to make. I’m thankful for each of them.
Have you had moments when you, also, have had to make some pretty difficult decisions? Moments where doing the right thing was not the easy choice? Who in your life were your Moses and Elijah? Who was there to encourage you? And lastly, who do you know who is engaging the work necessary for a better iteration of our present world, working to shape our world into a safe, compassionate, just home for us all, who right now could use your encouragement?
Take a moment this week and reach out. You never know what difference your just showing up could make. It doesn’t have to be a blinding light with radiant clouds and big voices from the sky. It could just be a text, or a phone call. However you choose to show up, take some time this week to let someone know that, in this work, they are not alone.
Here’s to a better world.
And here’s to all who right now are working toward it.