The Transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:28-36)

The Transfiguration of Jesus

28 About eight days after he said this, he took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray.

29 While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.

30 And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah,

31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

32Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.

33 As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying.

34 While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.

35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

36 After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.

I’ll confess; I find it challenging to develop a reflection on the transfiguration.  We can read footnotes and commentaries and they offer a collection of insightful and interesting remarks.  For example:

  • In Luke, a mountain is often the location for prayer. Moreover God spoke to both Moses and Elijah on a mountain. (Exodus 19:3, 1 Kings 19:11-13)
  • Moses and Elijah represent the law and the prophets – in other words, they represent all of the Old Testament Scriptures that the Jews were accustomed to.
  • The three tents Peter speaks of probably refer to the Feast of Booths (or Feast of Tabernacles). This was a feast observed by the Jews where they lived in tents for eight days.  Part of the reason was to remind them how their ancestors had no homes when they wandered in the wilderness during the exodus.
  • The voice from the cloud (God the Father) speaks and, like at His baptism, identifies Jesus as the Son of God (Lk 3:22).
  • In Deuteronomy Moses told the Israelites that God would raise up a prophet that they would need to listen to (Dt 18:15)

But the challenge for me is in trying to hear what the Lord wants me to hear.  I discussed this with my friend David.  I said “what does the Transfiguration say to you?”  He offered the thought that perhaps Moses and Elijah were present to offer Christ comfort and support for what he was about to face.  I find David’s observation very helpful.  After all, in the previous verses Christ has confirmed that He is, in fact, the Messiah.  Additionally, and quite unexpected, He has told His disciples that He must suffer, be rejected and die.  At the transfiguration, the disciples find out that He is also divine – He is the Son of Man (Lk 9:22) and He is the Son of God (Lk 9:35).

Although He is divine, Jesus’ divinity never overshadowed His humanity.  That is, His human suffering was potent and real.  Therefore, for Moses and Elijah to comfort and support Jesus it would reinforce our perception of Jesus’ human nature.  Jesus will soon be rejected by all the Jews; they’re going to want Him dead – All the Israelites in the Exodus lost their patience with Moses and wanted to kill him (Ex 17:4); he knows what it is to be hated by the people he’s trying to save.

Additionally, the religious leaders in Jerusalem are intent on killing Jesus; soon he will be killed by Pontius Pilot, the Roman leader of the province.  Elijah knows what it is to be pursued by the leaders when they are intent on killing you (1 King 19:2). In this way, Moses and Elijah are the perfect men to offer solace to Jesus as he approaches His Passion.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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