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Luke 9:28-36 – The Transfiguration

Summary

As Jesus prays on a mountain, his face and clothing become transformed. Moses and Elijah appear and converse with him. When Peter offers a confused response, God speaks to him, John, and James, declaring Jesus to be God's Son.

Analysis

This bizarre scene is more evocative than descriptive. Although its details do not provide a complete picture or a full explanation, it is a powerful symbolic moment in the Gospel. The scene's position within the overall sweep of Luke helps reveal its significance. Jesus has just predicted his suffering, death, and resurrection for the first time and has issued a radical call to those who seek to be his followers (Luke 9:18-27). He is about to commence his journey toward Jerusalem, where he will be killed (Luke 9:51). At this point in the narrative, then, the transfiguration divinely confirms Jesus' understanding of his fate. Moses and Elijah, two prophets from Israel's history who each also met with God on top of a mountain, speak about what Jesus must do in Jerusalem. The appearance of these two figures may also serve as an echo of biblical promises concerning future days (see Deuteronomy 18:16-20 and Malachi 4:4-6). The transfiguration is not about offering encouragement to Jesus; it is about instructing the disciples who witness it. The voice that comes from the cloud (a familiar representation of God's presence) addresses them, not Jesus.

Luke 9:28-36

The Transfiguration

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. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly 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.

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