Luke 9:28-36

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

The transfiguration of Jesus follows the passion predictions in the Gospels. Its impact is always to set the passion and the prophecy of Jesus' passion in the context of glory. This is most fully developed in John where the theme of manifesting his glory recurs throughout the whole gospel. The focus of that glory is certainly the resurrection but it is also the crucifixion and, as is clear later in the story, of Jesus' ascension. The theme in this story is that Moses and Elijah are talking with Jesus about his departure.

Jesus' departure is first of all his departure from Galilee on his journey to Jerusalem, which begins in Luke's story very shortly after this transfiguration narrative (Luke 9:51). Secondly, "departure" also refers to his crucifixion and resurrection and ascension, which is the end of Luke's story in the Gospel. "His departure" refers to all of those elements: Jesus' departure from Galilee, his departure from the world through death, his departure to heaven in the ascension.

In the background of this story is Mt. Sinai and the transfiguration of Moses (Exodus 35:29-35). Moses' face shone because he had been talking with God. There is also an illusion in the story to Elijah's departure into heaven described in 2 Kings, where Elijah is taken up in a fiery chariot. These stories of the great prophets of Israel are a part of the background against which the story of Jesus is told.

This is a highly dynamic story, full of surprises. Jesus' transfiguration is a surprise, as is the appearance of Moses and Elijah, the disciples nearly asleep but managing to stay awake and Peter's bumbling response offering to build three booths, the cloud and the disciples' terror in entering it, the voice of God, Jesus being there alone. This story is full of moments of wonder and surprise which you want to emphasize in its telling.

The voice of God is heard in this story for the first time since the baptism. Part of what this story communicates is that Jesus is the Messiah. But also that he is more than the Messiah. He is God's son. He is the one who will make God present.

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