Tagged: wakefulness

Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on February 7, 2016.

Transfiguration - Raphael
Transfiguration – Raphael

Luke begins this section on the transfiguration by telling us it happened “about 8 days after Jesus said this.” (Luke 9:28) This should prompt the eyes of the preacher to look up the page and see that Jesus’ transfiguration comes just after Jesus offers words about the meaning of his messiahship and, consequently, the nature of discipleship for those who choose to follow him. Jesus asks the disciples to tell Him what the crowds are saying about Jesus’ identity. Some say he’s John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the other long-gone great prophets, but Peter says he is God’s Messiah. (Luke 9:20) Notice then what happens next: Jesus affirms his messiahship, asks them to keep a lid on it for a while, and tells them that His messiahship will be characterized by submission and suffering, death then resurrection. In Matthew and Mark’s gospels this description prompts confrontation between Peter and Jesus (Matthew 16: 22-23; Mark 8:33), but here Jesus moves on to what this will mean for his disciples – that they must be prepared to follow suit. Before and after the transfiguration Jesus offers clarity by teaching and experience regarding exactly who he is and who he isn’t, and consequently, what it will and won’t look like to continue following him. The preacher will want to remember this distinction as they survey the possibilities within our text this week.

Jesus’ company on the mountain clearly answers the question of whether he might be the second coming of Elijah (Luke 9:19), or Moses for that matter. He is not, but Luke does want us to see Jesus’ connection to them. Perhaps intentionally, Luke does not tell us what mountain Jesus is transfigured upon. Some think it was part of Mt. Hermon, near Caesarea Philippi, since the transfiguration occurs shortly after Peter’s confession there in Mark, still others have identified it as Mt. Tabor, near Nazareth, however, symbolically Luke may prefer we sense similarity with the experience of Moses and Elijah on Mt. Sinai and Mt. Horeb. This gives some added content to the glory (Luke 9:32) seen in Jesus in this moment. It is not a glory divorced from the past. Rather, Jesus, his glory and his mission are connected to Israel’s great past. For instance, the word “departure” utilized in their discussion about Jesus’ mission, means exodus, and there is little doubt the author wants us to make this connection. Jesus, like Moses, will lead his people out of bondage. How many connections might be made here with people in the congregation who are longing for freedom from something that has a hold on them?

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