Luke 9.28-36 — The Transfiguration

Now we come to an awesome, almost unbelievable story. Well, it would be unbelievable if all of what we read before this wasn’t past of the context. With everything that’s gone before, this story just fits. If it were by itself, we’d go, “Yeah. Right. Sure.”

It’s the story of the Transfiguration. It is dripping with symbolism. Every element in it (the mountain, the glowing, Moses, Elijah, the conversation, his glory, etc.) is not just a literal historical account, but it’s also symbolic of a greater reality and a deeper truth. This story is not just a manifestation of Jesus’ glory, it’s about his death. The Law and the Prophets all point to the Eden problem (sin), the Babel problem (false conceptions of God), God’s presence, God’s covenant, and God’s plan of redemption.
Jesus goes up into a mountains. Mountains seem to have symbolism for Jesus. He often went into the mountains to pray. No different here: up he goes into a mountain to pray.  Suddenly the scene becomes unearthly: glowing visitors, Jesus shining like the sun, voices from heaven. Yeesh. What do you do with a story like this?
Well, since the dudes who appear with him appear in glorious splendor, it tell us that what awaits after death for those who are in God is glorious splendor. OK, so that’s cool, but what we’d expect.
Surprisingly, they spoke about his departure. This is key to the whole story, in my humble opinion. Symbolically this represented his death as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. That’s now we usually think about this story, so that’s interesting. In reality, it wouldn’t make sense that their purpose was to remind him about what was coming in Jerusalem, nor does it make sense that they were warning him about how awful it would be. It makes more sense that they were there to strengthen him, just as the angels did in Gethsemane. Hmmm… OK.
Peter, totally misunderstanding, wants to put up three shelters, as a symbol of a place where man met God. As usual, he’s missing the point. It’s not about the temple, but about  the crucifixion. Suddenly, and weirdly, a mystical cloud comes over them, so much so that they’re scared. Then, to make this totally unbelievable, a voice comes from the clouds affirming Jesus’ deity.
What are we to make of all this? Since I said every element is symbolic, and knowing what he been taught before in Luke, here’s what I think. This story is a synopsis of the whole Gospel story:
1.     Mankind is asleep (32)
2.     God reveals his glory (29-30)
3.     Mankind is afraid (34)
4.     God sends the Law to speak of Jesus’ death (30-31)
5.     God sends the Prophets to speak of Jesus’ death (30-31)
6.     The story is about the death and resurrection of Christ
7.     God makes a declaration about who he is and who his Son is (35)
8.     At the end what is left? Jesus alone (36)
It’s a tough story. That’s what I make of it, though.

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