LEXEGETE™ | YEAR C | St. LUKE
Transfiguration of Our Lord
Last Sunday after Epiphany
February 14, 2010
Psalm 99 (9)
2 Corinthians 3:12–4:2
Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a] [37-43a]
Prayer of the Day
Holy God, mighty and immortal, you are beyond our knowing, yet we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Transform us into the likeness of your Son, who renewed our humanity so that we may share in his divinity, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Alleluia. This is my | Son, my Chosen,
lis- | ten to him! Alleluia. (Luke 9:35)
1a. CONTEXT: Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a]
The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus is found in
all the synoptic gospels and records the intense religious
experience of the three disciples Peter, James and John.
In all three accounts it follows the confession of Peter
and marks the transition from Jesus' preaching in Galilee
to his mission in Jerusalem.
Luke's transfiguration story places Jesus at the
summit of the prophetic and messianic expectations of his
age. The story is not incidental to Luke's gospel, nor an
example of synoptic coincidence. Luke's account, though
essentially similar to the versions of Matthew and Mark,
illumines the true power in Jesus' healing, teaching and
law-giving, and foreshadows the weakness of his followers,
who seem to be drowsy at crucial moments. The vision of
the three disciples is a turning point in Luke's gospel.
On the mountaintop Jesus' Galilean ministry is seen by the
light of Jewish hopes and the road ahead to Jerusalem is
Peter, John and James wake up to see Elijah and Moses
with Jesus, but alert readers of Luke's gospel might well
have been prepared for their appearance. The story of the
feeding of the 5,000 with loaves of bread and fish invokes
a miraculous feeding story of Elijah's in 2 Kings 4:42 and
Moses' feeding of the tribes in the wilderness. At the
beginning of chapter 9 Luke uses Herod to introduce these
associations. Jesus' activities had given rise to reports
that either John the Baptist had been raised, or that
Elijah or one of the prophets had appeared, and Herod
confesses a curiousity. "John I beheaded; but who is this
about whom I hear such things?" (Luke 9:9). Jesus,
according to Luke, asks who the people say he is.
The disciples report the titles Herod had also
heard: John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets.
Peter shares Herod's doubt concerning these but goes
beyond curiousity to conviction. He confesses that Jesus
is "the Christ of God." Now with John and James, Peter
will see Jesus' true identity in the vision of the
1a. TEXT: Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a]
28Ἐγένετο δὲ μετὰ τοὺς λόγους τούτους ὡσεὶ ἡμέραι ὀκτὼ [καὶ] παραλαβὼν Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάννην καὶ Ἰάκωβον ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος προσεύξασθαι. 29καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ προσεύχεσθαι αὐτὸν τὸ εἶδος τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ ἕτερον καὶ ὁ ἱματισμὸς αὐτοῦ λευκὸς ἐξαστράπτων. 30καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνδρες δύο συνελάλουν αὐτῷ, οἵτινες ἦσαν Μωϋσῆς καὶ Ἠλίας, 31οἳ ὀφθέντες ἐν δόξῃ ἔλεγον τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ ἣν ἤμελλεν πληροῦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ. 32ὁ δὲ Πέτρος καὶ οἱ σὺν αὐτῷ ἦσαν βεβαρημένοι ὕπνῳ: διαγρηγορήσαντες δὲ εἶδον τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ καὶ τοὺς δύο ἄνδρας τοὺς συνεστῶτας αὐτῷ. 33καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ διαχωρίζεσθαι αὐτοὺς ἀπ∍ αὐτοῦ εἶπεν ὁ Πέτρος πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, Ἐπιστάτα, καλόν ἐστιν ἡμᾶς ὧδε εἶναι, καὶ ποιήσωμεν σκηνὰς τρεῖς, μίαν σοὶ καὶ μίαν Μωϋσεῖ καὶ μίαν Ἠλίᾳ, μὴ εἰδὼς ὃ λέγει. 34ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ λέγοντος ἐγένετο νεφέλη καὶ ἐπεσκίαζεν αὐτούς: ἐφοβήθησαν δὲ ἐν τῷ εἰσελθεῖν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν νεφέλην. 35καὶ φωνὴ ἐγένετο ἐκ τῆς νεφέλης λέγουσα, Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἐκλελεγμένος, αὐτοῦ ἀκούετε. 36καὶ ἐν τῷ γενέσθαι τὴν φωνὴν εὑρέθη Ἰησοῦς μόνος. καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐσίγησαν καὶ οὐδενὶ ἀπήγγειλαν ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις οὐδὲν ὧν ἑώρακαν. [ 37Ἐγένετο δὲ τῇ ἑξῆς ἡμέρᾳ κατελθόντων αὐτῶν ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄρους συνήντησεν αὐτῷ ὄχλος πολύς. 38καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου ἐβόησεν λέγων, Διδάσκαλε, δέομαί σου ἐπιβλέψαι ἐπὶ τὸν υἱόν μου, ὅτι μονογενής μοί ἐστιν, 39καὶ ἰδοὺ πνεῦμα λαμβάνει αὐτόν, καὶ ἐξαίφνης κράζει, καὶ σπαράσσει αὐτὸν μετὰ ἀφροῦ καὶ μόγις ἀποχωρεῖ ἀπ∍ αὐτοῦ συντρῖβον αὐτόν: 40καὶ ἐδεήθην τῶν μαθητῶν σου ἵνα ἐκβάλωσιν αὐτό, καὶ οὐκ ἠδυνήθησαν. 41ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, ω γενεὰ ἄπιστος καὶ διεστραμμένη, ἕως πότε ἔσομαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς καὶ ἀνέξομαι ὑμῶν; προσάγαγε ὧδε τὸν υἱόν σου. 42ἔτι δὲ προσερχομένου αὐτοῦ ἔρρηξεν αὐτὸν τὸ δαιμόνιον καὶ συνεσπάραξεν: ἐπετίμησεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἀκαθάρτῳ, καὶ ἰάσατο τὸν παῖδα καὶ ἀπέδωκεν αὐτὸν τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ. 43ἐξεπλήσσοντο δὲ πάντες ἐπὶ τῇ μεγαλειότητι τοῦ θεοῦ. Πάντων δὲ θαυμαζόντων ἐπὶ πᾶσιν οἷς ἐποίει εἶπεν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ,
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London
28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure,  which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One;  listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
[ 37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him. 40 And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God. But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus  said to his disciples,
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.
(1) 9:31 Greek exodus
(2) 9:35 Some manuscripts my Beloved
(3) 9:43 Greek he
2. ANALYSIS: Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a]
Luke 9:28-9 - Jesus brings Peter, John and James to
mountain in order to pray [proseuchasthai, from
proseuchomai--to offer or pour out prayer].
Throughout Luke's gospel moments of revelation occur
while Jesus is at prayer. Jesus was praying at his baptism
when the heavens opened (3:21), on the mountain before
choosing the disciples (6:12), on the Mount of Olives "as was
his custom" before his crucifixion (22:39), as well as on the
mountain of transfiguration. In this moment of prayer
the important dynamic is the communication and openness
between heaven and earth that is established in Jesus'
dialogue with God. Nothing particular is requested or
sought by Jesus. In Luke's gospel occasions of prayer
signify rather the intimacy Jesus has with God.
Luke 9:32 - Luke contrasts the intensity of Jesus'
prayer with the sleep [bebaremenoi hypno, from
bareo--weighted down with sleep] of the disciples. Their
reaction might indicate that the transfiguration took
place at night; in any case it foreshadows the sleep of
the disciples during Jesus' final night of prayer in the
Garden of Gethsemane. When the disciples waken from
their lethargy, they see Jesus in glory (doxa), speaking to
Moses and Elijah. Luke emphasizes the fact that Jesus and
his disciples are having distinct appearances of the
transfiguration. He notes the confusion of Peter who
gropes for a concrete resolution to this spiritual event.
"Let us build three booths," says Peter, who does not see
that Jesus' glory is from within and visible only to the
eyes of faith.
Luke 9:31 - Moses and Elijah have been speaking to
Jesus about the "departure" [exodos] he would fulfill in
Jerusalem. Moses speaking of Jesus' "exodus" is a prism
revealing a number of theological reflections: Jesus as
deliverer, Passover Lamb, leader, and prophet. Because
Moses and Elijah experienced suffering and rejection
before being vindicated by God, they legitimately share
with Jesus this foreshadowing of glory. Luke has already
drawn references to Moses and Elijah in the feeding
miracle, their symbolization of the "Law and the Prophets"
now establishes a new relationship between the "old" and
the "new" in the teaching of Jesus. In Luke this
encounter between the old and the new, heaven and earth,
suffering and exaltation, is the moment of glory [doxa].
It is beheld first by the disciple who made the
confession: "You are the Christ" and began to "see"
through the eyes of faith.
3. STRATEGY: Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a]
The story of the transfiguration of Jesus
provides wonderful material for reflection on the theme of
Christian growth. One might revive the "nature versus
nurture" controversy to demonstrate two seemingly
opposed theories of faith development. Luke might at first
seem to support the view that faith is born of momentous
experiences, that Christians need to point to a time of
revelation, or conviction. On closer scrutiny, Luke
gives ample cues that this mountaintop experience of the
disciples is to be interpreted in the context of Jewish
history and hopes, in the ongoing teaching and testifying
of the disciples, and in the slow path of the cross. The
mountain is a vantage point from which roads coming and
going can be seen.
Another direction to take in preparing a sermon on
this text could be to examine the role of prayer in the
life of a Christian. Luke is careful to distinguish
different kinds of prayer, and believers would do well to
note that not all prayer involves a relationship of asking
and receivingl. Moments of prayer during Jesus' ministry
establish and nurture his intimacy with God, his
continuity with the history of the Jewish people, and
his identity as Savior.
Exegete – The Rev. Maria Erling, ThD, is Associate Professor of the History of Christianity in North America and Global Missions at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, PA.
4. REFERENCES: Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a]
For a concise discussion of the transfiguration in Luke, and indeed an excellent
brief overview of the entire gospel, see O.C. Edwards, Jr.
LUKE'S STORY OF JESUS. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986.
Edwards is Professor of Preaching at Seabury-Western
Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and a LEXEGETE™ contributor.
5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a]
Two texts set to the Gregorian Chant "Adoro Te Devote"
are appropriate for this day: THEE WE ADORE O HIDDEN
SAVIOR (LBW 199), and ETERNAL SPIRIT OF THE LIVING CHRIST (HB
698, LBW 441).
A hymn focusesd on the theme of prayer is LORD, TEACH US HOW TO PRAY ARIGHT (LBW 438).
On the Transfiguration itself, HOW GOOD, LORD, TO BE HERE (LBW 89)
is suitable, especially the third stanza which sums up this day as follows:
" Fulfiller of the past and hope of things to be,
we hail your body glorified and our redemption see."
Others which apply to this occasion include:
CHRIST UPON THE MOUNTAIN PEAK (HB 129/130)
O LIGHT OF LIGHT (HB 133/4)
O WONDROUS TYPE, O VISION FAIR (HB 136/7, LBW 80)
CHRIST, WHOSE GLORY FILLS THE SKIES (HB 6/7)
WHEN MORNING GILDS THE SKIES (HB 427)
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