A revealing fact of the divine nature of Christ’s death and resurrection is His repeated foretelling of it (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19; Luke 9:44; 18:31). One remarkable such discussion occurs in the incident of His transfiguration on the mount.
And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his [exodon], which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Here the Greek word exodon is used for what Jesus was discussing with Moses and Elijah. This is the word from which we get ‘exodus’ in English. It’s found in only two other places in the New Testament. One of those places is Hebrews 11:22, which reads, “By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus [exodon] of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.” This is the normal and expected connotation of ‘exodus’. It recalls the central great event in the Old Testament of God saving His people.
There is good reason to perceive something more than the simple meaning of Jesus’s ‘departure’ (ESV) here. The context suggests the glory of a greater exodus is the subject of discussion.
Jesus would fulfill this exodus.
It would be rather strange to speak of ‘accomplishing’ your ‘departure’. Yet Christ said He was about to accomplish, or more literally ‘fulfill’, His exodon. The unique language suggests that more than Christ’s death is in view, but certainly not less.
Christ approaches His cross with the step of a Conqueror. He speaks of His death as a victorious event. Though come in our likeness, He is unlike any other and His death would be unlike any other. His reason for dying would be definitively different from every other death. Despite the appearance of weakness, helplessness, and defeat, the death of Christ held in itself the prospect of triumph. Resurrection would be His triumph’s testimony.
Jesus was discussing what He was about to fulfill. He was about to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21) through the greater exodus.
Jesus was speaking to Moses.
Jesus was discussing something significantly more than just His leaving earth. When a word is used so infrequently as three times for something so common as ‘departure’ or ‘death’, it is virtually irresponsible to dismiss the question, “Why this word here?” That exodon is used in the context of Jesus speaking to Moses cannot be accidental.
Moses was God’s servant to lead His people in the exodus (Exodus 3:10-11; Numbers 33:1). Israel’s exodus is the Old Covenant’s preeminent demonstration of God redeeming His people (Exodus 6:6), delivering them from slavery (Exodus 6:5), vanquishing their enemies (Exodus 14:30; Psalm 106:10), manifesting great and terrible judgment (Exodus 7:3; 15:6-11; Psalm 106:8), calling His people to worship Him (Exodus 3:12; 4:23, 31), and leading them toward their inheritance (Exodus 3:8; 6:8). And all of this in fulfillment of God’s own promise (Exodus 12:25; Genesis 15:18; 26:3; Ezekiel 20:5-6).
These shadows are all most profoundly fulfilled in the substance of Christ (Colossians 2:17) through His greater exodus. The parallels are too obvious to dismiss the connection. Yet the differences are just as important to understand the significance. In the greater exodus, the Master takes the place of the servant—God the Son instead of Moses. All of the major elements of the exodus are part of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection (redemption, liberation, triumph, judgment, worship, inheritance, and promise). Yet, infinitely greater is Christ’s exodus: God Himself fulfilling redemption, freeing His people from sin not just its consequence, triumphing over death itself, taking on Himself the fullness of the fierce wrath of God against sin, freeing a people for worship in spirit and truth, securing for them an inheritance far greater than land under the curse, making all this freely possible according to promise not works.
On the cross, Jesus in infinite power was dividing a great pathway through the waters of death to deliver His people from sin’s slavery.
Jesus would rise from the dead before this exodus would make sense.
One last factor deserves notice. As Jesus was leading His disciples down the mountain after His transfiguration, “he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9). The exodus that He was discussing would not have made sense or landed with the power it possessed until He accomplished it. The resurrection alone could demonstrate and testify that He stood on the other side of death’s sea, having vanquished humanity’s greatest enemies through humanity’s greatest exodus.
In Christ, we are delivered from the captivity of sin and the certainty of death. By faith, our feet have been set with Christ, on the other side, to journey towards the spacious and glorious freedom of the kingdom of God. Christ has led His captives free! We are on our way to the promised land!
Have you come to trust, identify with, and follow Christ and Him crucified? Are you living in bondage or in freedom?