Summary: At the Transfiguration, God the Father answers the question: Who is Jesus?
Who is Jesus? The Transfiguration – Luke 9:28-36
Readings: Ex 34:29-53
The poet W.H. Auden in his book “A Certain World” wrote this:
Christ did not enchant men; He demanded that they believe in Him: except on one occasion, the Transfiguration. For a brief while, Peter, James, and John were permitted to see Him in His glory. For that brief while, they had no need of faith. The vision vanished, and the memory of it did not prevent them from all forsaking Him when He was arrested, or Peter from denying that he had ever known Him.
... W. H. Auden (1907-1973)
This morning’s Gospel reading is the record of that event - the Transfiguration.
The word transfiguration (from the Latin transfiguratio) refers to the “remarkable transformation that once took place in the appearance of Jesus.”
The three synoptic Gospel writers all mention the Transfiguration and so the obvious question to ask is
Why did the event take place?
In order to understand why, we need to look at the background to the story.
In Luke Chapters 8 and 9, the central issue is: Who is Jesus?
We see this question asked three times in these two chapters.
1. The first time the question is asked is in Luke 8:22-28.
Jesus has just walked on the water and calmed the raging storm. And in Lk 8:28 the disciples ask the question:
"Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."
2. The second time the question is asked is in Luke 9:7-9.
Jesus and his disciples had been performing marvelous miracles – driving out demons and curing the sick and this comes to the attention of the local ruler Herod the Tetrarch. St Luke records Herod saying:
"I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?"
3. And the third time this question is asked is in Luke 9:18-20.
Jesus is alone with his disciples at prayer and asks the question:
"Who do the crowds say I am?"
19They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life."
20"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
Peter answered, "The Christ of God."
I believe the Transfiguration took place because God wanted to answer the question. Who is Jesus?
God the Father himself answers the 64,000 dollar question with the simple and clear words:
"This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." (Lk 9:35)
Having set the background, let us look at the transfiguration in more detail
ii) The Transfiguration
At the transfiguration, three significant events occurred
1. Jesus’ appearance was transformed.
2. Moses and Elijah appeared with him on the mountain and
3. God the Father spoke to the disciples
1. Let us look at the first significant event - the actual transfiguration
St. Luke records:
28About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. (Lk 9:28-29).
A lot of words have been spoken about Who Jesus is in Luke Chapters 8 and 9.
Now God himself reveals something very visual about who Jesus is. His glory.
At the Transfiguration, God the Father gives the disciples clear visual evidence of who Jesus is.
He shows them the Glory of Christ, the glory of
the Son of God. He shows them Jesus transfigured.
2. The second significant event at the Transfiguration is the appearance of Moses and Elijah.
St Luke records it like this:
30Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.
It is interesting that the Gk word used for Jesus’
departure is exodos from which we get the word “Exodus”.
It has, of course, connotations of the first Exodus, when Moses brought the children of Israel out of the slavery of Egypt. And this exodus was remembered each year by the killing of a Passover Lamb.
The new exodus – freeing of God’s people from the slavery of sin - will come with Jesus’ impending death on the Cross and his resurrection.
Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Passover Lamb of the New Exodus.
Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets and I find it significant that in verse 36, after God the Father has spoken, Moses and Elijah disappear and Jesus alone remains.
As one Bible Commentator put it:
The Law and the Prophets have served their turn and pass away. He, who is the fulfillment of both, alone remains