Matthew 17:4-8 shakes up the world of the prophets and the disciples. In this version of the story the two prophets do not get a briefing about Christ’s atoning sacrifice and I am loathe to try and harmonize the evangelists’ intentions. Luke alone (9:31) seems to have inquired about the conversation between the three and learned that the two prophets had been talking about (most certainly the meaning of) Christ’s death.
Who appeared in glory, and spoke of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.
The narrative freezes any attempt to honour the prophets, even these two towering figures. It also denies the equality of Christ and the prophets.
Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if you will, let us make here three tabernacles; one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear all of you him.
Hear and Fear
Two things bring on the reverence due. The disciples are wrong about the prophets and wrong about Christ. They go from being excited about the prophets’ association with the Rabbi to sheer terror and to the stark reality that Yeshua is all there is.
And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.