6 August 2021Luke 9:28-36
Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ (v. 35)
Today, some parts of the Christian Church celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, and so our reading gives us Luke’s account of this event. The Transfiguration of Jesus is recounted also in Matthew 21 and Mark 9, and referred to in the second letter of Peter (2 Peter 1:16-18). This story is also told on the Sunday before Lent each year in our Lectionary. That is because, in each gospel, the chapters which follow are pointing Jesus in one direction: towards Jerusalem and his death (and Resurrection).
It is a mysterious story with many interesting features, but we would do well not to assume we can explain every part of it. It is an event that left the disciples mystified and awe-struck, and they went from this ‘mountain-top’ experience down into the difficult realities of ministry in the verses that follow.
We can wonder at the cameo appearances of Moses and Elijah, we can question what was happening when Jesus was gloriously changed before their eyes, and we can marvel at the booming voice from the cloud. All of these things have much to explore in themselves, but taken together these events make clear that what is happening in the Jesus-story is directly linked to the Hebrew scriptures before it. There is a sense of continuity, and also fulfilment. Jesus speaks of his ‘departure’ to be accomplished at Jerusalem, and the actual word used is ‘exodus’. It was during the Exodus that God spoke to Moses, from a cloud, up a mountain. When Moses met with God, his face was changed to reflect the glory of God (Exodus 34:29-35). Later, Elijah too met with God in spectacular ways, and also up a mountain in the ‘still small voice’ (1 Kings 19:11-19).
The gospel writers want us to see, through these connections, that this is the same God and the same salvation story that began in the Old Testament. While still very important for the people of Israel, the Christian Church sees these events as foreshadowing what was to come in Jesus the Messiah. The Exodus story reveals to us God’s grace, compassion and provision, and God’s desire to save those who are oppressed. Jesus came to reveal the same aspects of God, but to widen the scope and widen the blessing to offer salvation to the whole world – to any who would listen to him.
- What are the ‘mountain top’ experiences of your faith journey?
- Where do you find nourishment and sustenance when you are in the hard slog at the bottom?
- A Methodist Way of Life asks us, "When, lately, have you felt close to God or distant from God?" You might like to share your reflections with a Christian friend.