The Transfiguration of our Lord

by Crossings

Luke 9:28-36 [37-43]
(The Transfiguration of our Lord)
analysis by Mike Hoy

28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” –not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen. [37On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43And all were astounded at the greatness of God.]


Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Making Booths
Peter’s desire to make three booths–one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah–might seem like a magnanimous gesture from the outside; but it is really reflective of Peter’s failure to grasp the newness in the experience of the transfiguration. Moses and Elijah are about to leave Jesus, and just moments ago were speaking about Jesus’ “departure” toward Jerusalem. Peter wants to stay, not simply to keep this moment permanent but to keep his life unchanged from his older religious ways of thinking. How much do we like to settle in, religiously speaking, to avoid the risks, challenges, or changes that may lie ahead?

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Not Knowing
The fact that Peter is not even aware of his religious stigmatism (“not knowing what he said,” v. 33) is symptomatic of a deeper illness. He has followed along with Jesus, chummed along the road, but all along the message of Jesus’ purpose and journey has continued to leave Peter baffled, including this most recent event on Tabor. This is a sign of Peter’s inability to grasp the mystery of Jesus, holding on instead to the traditions of old. For all of us who are reluctant to change from the old to the new there is the truth of our own being “weighed down with sleep” (v. 32), not even being aware that we may have a problem here: infidelity. In fact, having our infidelity pointed out might be the very thing at which we bristle, though without adequate defense. The infidelity will soon become apparent for the disciples and ourselves in the very chastising of Jesus for our inabilities and weaknesses: “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?” (v. 41)

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Overshadowed
It is when the cloud of the divine presence overshadows the company gathered on the mountain, and when Peter and his companions enter into the cloud, that they are “terrified.” When the voice speaks from the cloud, that voice not only highlights the infidelity to Jesus, but the culpability in the presence of the divine: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” But to whom or to what have they (we) been listening? To the traditions of Moses? To the comfortable patterns, customs, habits, and practices–maybe even traditions–in their religious/spiritual circles? Now we are all overshadowed in this experience as having been tuned in to the wrong source of divine inspiration. Now we do have something to share together–the terror of our culpability before God.

PROGNOSIS: Transfigured

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Glorified
Now even the thought of having Jesus around, in all his glory, might be a little too much for any of us. What makes the experience so much less intimidating, however, is that no sooner has the indictment come from the voice in the cloud that “Jesus was found alone.” That Jesus stands alone with the disciples is consolation for the culpability they have engendered. Jesus and Jesus alone will carry through with the “departure” to Jerusalem to fulfill the mission for which he is sent–along with the message which he has to bring (“listen to him!”). Through this mission, the glorified change on Tabor is a preview of the glory that is his gift to bring to those who trek along and hear his promising Word.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Keeping silent
Keeping silent might not seem like an act of faith; but it is by far much better than the “foot in mouth” talk of those who do not know what they are saying. The silence is obedience to follow along with Jesus, and to take that silent journey to the cross. But understanding where the cross-journey leads does not mean that we are not also wide awake and well aware of the joy that is in store for us–in all its glory! Nobody said, least of all Jesus, that in listening to him and following along we couldn’t smile about the promise.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Coming Down
One of the ways we bring our listening to Jesus’ promise-filled mission is in our coming down to the earthy levels of those who are in need–a parent who needs someone to tend to his sick son, for example (vs. 37-43). Listening to the authority of Jesus helps us to listen better to the needs of others, and to be with them rather than on some lofty towers, or settled into our complacency. The risks, challenges, and changes are still out there, waiting for us. How great to encounter them along our own cross-journeys with Jesus!


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