Introduction to this study
For this last Sunday of the Epiphany season, we receive a spectacular mountaintop vision, Jesus’ inclusion with Moses and Elijah – the law and the prophets – and affirmation of Jesus’ divine Sonship before we begin another 40-day journey through Lent toward Easter.
28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now 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.
33 Just 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. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" 36 When 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.
Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead." Tell no one until Easter!
• Transfigure – "to change shape" • Transfiguration – "change of shape" •
Up to this point in Luke 9
Jesus called the twelve (together), and gave them power and authority over demons and to cure diseases. Jesus sent them out to proclaim the reign of God and to heal.... told them to receive the hospitality of strangers and to shake the dust off their feet if they weren’t welcomed. Jesus charged the twelve to feed the crowd – to "give them something to eat." Five loaves, two fish, taken, blessed, broken and given: "All ate and were filled." Who do those crowds say Jesus is, but who do you say I am? Peter’s confession of Jesus’ Messiahship; Jesus' prediction of his own passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus' charge and call to every one of us to take up a cross, lose our lives, save our lives. And now, Jesus transfigured on the mountain top!
Backtracking: read Exodus 34:29-35
The change in the appearance of Jesus' face is reminiscent of Moses' radiant face as he experienced the presence of God in Exodus 34:29-35. But Luke tells us Jesus' clothes become glowing, starry white, using similar words to his description of angelic figures in Luke 24:4 and Acts 1:10. Jesus' appearance becomes transformed not merely because he experiences God's glory like Moses did, but because he is the very source of divine glory.
1. What do you make of physical changes in Jesus' appearance?
2. Can you think of other similarities between Jesus and Moses?
Moses [revelation on Mount Sinai in Exodus 20:1-17] and Elijah [revelation on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 19:12] – the Law and the Prophets – in verse 30 adds to affirm Jesus' identity. In Luke 24:25-27, 44-46, the risen Jesus himself will assert that Moses, the prophets, and the psalms point toward him; here in Luke 9:31 we hear how Moses and Elijah "were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem," anticipating Jesus' own teaching that he himself is the ultimate fulfillment of scripture.
3. During this Epiphany season we've talked a lot about prophets. In what sense did Jesus live a prophetic life?
4. How does God call us as prophets? In what sense can our lives be prophetic?
With Jesus on the mountain of the event called Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James, and John eye-witnessed a meeting of earth and heaven, the holiness of everything created. Within Judaism, clouds, mountains and other expressions of nature were traditional signs of God's presence. Heaven and earth also meet countless times in this world in which we live.
5. What physical or natural expressions of God's presence do we find in our lives?
6. God's presence in the sacraments?
Where We Live: according to scripture
In Philippians 3:20, the apostle Paul says we are citizens of heavens! That means the reign of God, the kingdom of heaven already is here, we're already there, we're already it.
7. How can we not continue living as light to the world, through Lent and beyond?
In Luke 17:21 Jesus says the kingdom of God, the reign of heaven already is among us, in the midst of us, within us! Just as to his earlier followers in Luke 9, Jesus gives us power and authority over demons and to cure diseases. Jesus sends us proclaim the reign of God and to heal. Jesus tells us to "give them something to eat." Who do we say Jesus is?
8. Power over demons, ability to cure diseases? How?
9. How do we in the Spirit live as the presence of God here on earth?
10. Why does Luke make table fellowship an important focus of his gospel?
11. How are aspects of our lives and the lives of others we touch transfigured by following Jesus?
Where We Live: Nelson Mandela on letting our light shine
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Final thoughts: What insights have you gained in this study?