Summary: We are being transfigured, too.
Plastic Surgery and Tan-in-a-Can
The facts of the story are simple enough: Jesus and 3 disciples go up a mountain, Jesus is praying when he is suddenly transformed or transfigured. His face changes and his clothes become dazzling white.
Then Moses and Elijah -- both long dead -- appear with Jesus and talk with him. Peter, one of those three disciples, wants to build three booths -- one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah -- but a voice from heaven
interrupts, saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"
Why is this story in the Bible? What does it mean? And what does it have to do with us today? Well, there is enough meaning in this passage to cover several Sunday’s worth of sermons, so we’ll focus in on just a couple points: the similarities of our 2 passages and the 2 transfigurations.
We read in Luke, verse 29, “And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.” This recalls the story of Moses, who encountered God on Sinai as a "devouring fire on the top of the mountain" (Exod 24:17) and whose face shone brightly "because he had been
talking with God." Moses’ face shone so brightly that, when other people were present, he found it necessary to wear a veil (Exod. 34:29-35).
There are other parallels between Moses in Exodus 34 and Jesus at the Transfiguration. Both incidents: (1) occur on a mountain (2) involve Moses (3) have God speaking from a cloud and (4) speak of the glory of the Lord. Luke "understands Jesus as a new Moses, who brings the new law to his people and will deliver them out of bondage in a new exodus".
And yet, Jesus’ glory "is different from the glory of Moses. Moses face was radiant because he had looked upon the face of God and reflected God’s glory as a mirror would. Luke has Jesus shining of himself, thus identifying him with God.
And while Jesus was still “glowing”, Moses and Elijah "appeared in glory" (v. 31). They were speaking of (Jesus’) departure.
Moses, you will remember, led the Exodus from Egypt. The Exodus from Egypt was the great salvation event of the OT, freeing Israel from bondage to the Egyptians. Jesus’ “Exodus” (his death/resurrection)
is the great salvation event of the NT, freeing believers from bondage to sin and death.
The Exodus from Egypt led God’s people to the Promised Land. Jesus’ Exodus leads us into the kingdom of God, our Promised Land.
Now, Jesus has just told the disciples in verse 22 that he "must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised".
So what happens when all this is going on. Well, Peter is doer! He springs into action. At a time when most anyone else would sit in stunned silence, Peter says, "Hey, why don’t we build 3 shelters?!"
None of the Gospels tells us why he wants to do this: Maybe he wants to keep Jesus safe on the mountain rather than seeing him exposed to suffering,
rejection, and death. Maybe he wants to prolong the mountaintop experience. We don’t know.