Luke 9:28-36


Who is Jesus? (4) – God’s Answer

Just as he had done with Mark’s account of Jesus’ vision after his baptism, so, too, here Luke felt free to modify the story to suit his own purposes. His freedom could lead to the conclusion that he saw the description basically as Mark’s own composition, rather than a remembered account of an actual happening. Even in Mark’s original, the story had been highly theologised and probably provided Mark’s own statement of faith in Jesus – his answer to Jesus’ question: Who do you say I am?

A clear statement about the identity of Jesus was important because the message of Jesus, as would become more obvious later in the Gospel, would make difficult demands on the disciples. They needed to listen to him, and to be in no doubt about their reason to listen carefully.

Luke 9:28-36  -  Jesus is Transfigured

28 About eight days after saying these things,
he took along with him Peter and John and James,
and went up into the hills to pray.

Luke had not picked up the relevance of Mark’s timing of the event six days afterwards. Mark’s reference was to the ascent of Moses on Mt Sinai after six days. There Moses had received from God the Torah - the practical directions that indicated how Israel would live out its covenant with God. Jesus was about to outline his vision of the interactions of disciples within the Christian community.

Luke added the detail about Jesus praying.

29 While he was praying,
his face began to look different
and his clothing became as brilliantly white as a lightning flash. 

In the Hebrew tradition, particularly in the Book of Daniel, the changed facial appearance and brilliantly white clothes were associated with angels. Jesus was more than angel.

30 Then two men were there talking with him.  
They were Moses and Elijah.
31 They appeared in glory,
and were discussing his exodus
that would climax in Jerusalem.

Moses and Elijah were key figures in Israel’s history associated with the founding and the re-founding of God’s People. With Jesus, a renewed People was about to come into existence.

The word exodus was Luke's emphasis. A new Exodus was soon to renew the People of God. Luke also emphasised the significance of Jerusalem - the place of Jesus’ climactic encounter with Satan, the place of death and the place of resurrection.

32 Peter and the ones with him were weighed down with sleep.  
When they woke up, they saw his glory,
and the two men standing with him.

The disciples would also struggle with sleep when Jesus would later reveal his weakness during his prayer on another mount, the Mount of Olives. Now they were given a preview of his glory. 

33 As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus.  
"Master, it is good for us to be here.  
Let us put up three tents,
one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."  
He did not know what to say.

Constructing tents took place on the hills surrounding Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles, when Israel celebrated in its annual liturgy the time originally spent in the desert of Sinai, when they were first formed into the People of God. Peter’s comment was in fact not so far off the point, though Luke made the comment that he did not know what to say.

34 While he was saying this,
a cloud came and cast deep shadow over them.  
As they entered the cloud, they became frightened.

In Hebrew literature, the cloud was the symbol of the presence of God. The cloud had first led the Israelites during their time of formation in Sinai. The voice from the cloud was a clear reference to the voice of God.

35 Then a voice spoke from the cloud,
"This is my son, my chosen Son.  
Listen to him!"
36 After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.

The message of the voice provided the reason for the whole story. The disciples were to listen to Jesus, because Jesus was specially chosen and deputed by God, despite his eventual suffering and death. 

The reference to my Chosen Son was similar to the title given to Jesus in the story of his vision after his baptism, though in this case the message was directed to the disciples, and substituted Chosen for Beloved.  It was a direct quotation from the prophecy of Isaiah regarding God’s chosen Servant (Isaiah 42:1) who would redeem Israel precisely through his faithful suffering.

They remained silent and told no one at that time
about what they had seen.

Luke chose to omit Mark’s comment that the reason for their silence was in obedience to a direction from Jesus himself.

Next >> Luke 9:37-50