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Wrestling with the Word, episode 60: The Transfiguration of our Lord, Year C (February 14, 2010) February 5, 2010

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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The Transfiguration of our Lord

The Sunday of the Transfiguration of Jesus stands in a strategic position in the church year. In one sense, it brings to a conclusion the Epiphany season. In the past six weeks, we have read and studied passages from the New Testament that revealed the person and work of Jesus as the presence and power of God. For the next six weeks, we will focus on Jesus’ path to Golgotha where he will suffer and die at the hands of the religious and political leaders. The story of the Transfiguration connects to the Epiphany season because it tells about God’s direct revelation of Jesus’ identity as God’s Son. It points forward to the cross in precisely the same words that define for the apostles who Jesus is. Looking back and stretching forward, this Sunday announces the person and purpose of Jesus and the majesty of God.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 60: The Transfiguration of our Lord, Year C.


Psalm 99
Like Psalms 47, 93, 95-98 this psalm acclaims the Lord as king and invites worshipers to extol the divine name in the temple. Unlike those psalms that base YHWH’s kingship on the act of creation, this one focuses more on history, even mentioning Moses, Aaron, and Samuel by name. That those heroes of the past cried out to the Lord and the Lord answered their prayer gives hope to all worshipers who cry out in the present. Such hope is confirmed by the description of YHWH as “lover of justice.”


Exodus 34:29-35
Having given for the second time the Ten Words on stone tablets, God manifested the divine presence by the brightness of Moses’ face, so that others might know the source of the commandments.

In chapter 24 God instructed Moses to ascend the mountain to receive the tables of stone upon which God had already written the commandments. When Moses finally descended the mountain and discovered then the golden calf that Aaron and the others had made, Moses smashed the tablets in his hands. In the earlier part of our present chapter, God invited Moses back to the mountain where the Lord announced a new “ten words,” the so-called Ritual Decalogue, and on this occasion, Moses wrote down the words over a forty-day period of fasting.

Key Words
Vv. 29, 30, 35. qāran ‘ôr pānāyw = “the skin of his face sent out rays”: The verb qāran derives from the noun qeren = “horn”; the Vulgate took the word literally and described horns coming out of Moses’ head, thus the portrayal by many medieval artists. The word, however, does appear in the sense of “rays of light” and indicates a theophany at Habakkuk 3:4: “His (God’s) brightness was like the light, rays flashed from his hand.”


2 Corinthians 3:12—4:2
In contrast to the veil that remains over the face of Moses and over those who hear the law of Moses, the Lord removes the veil from believers and reveals to us the glory of the Lord.

At the beginning of chapter 3, Paul sets forth the differences between the old covenant through Moses and the new covenant God established in Jesus Christ that far exceeds the former one in splendor and therefore in permanence.


Luke 9:28-36 (37-43)
In response to the discussion about the identity of Jesus, God announces from a cloud on the mountain that Jesus is his Son, his Chosen, and that the disciples should listen to him.


Having his identity and destiny revealed to the select disciples, Jesus demonstrated the power and reign of God by exorcising an unclean spirit from a boy and restoring him to his father.

Points of similarity with Mark 9:2-9 and Matthew 17:1-8
(1) The context following the questions about the identity of Jesus, beginning at Luke 9:18
(2) The entourage of Jesus, Peter, James, and John
(3) The event on a mountain
(4) The change of Jesus’ appearance
(5) The appearance of Moses and Elijah
(6) Peter’s proposal to build three booths
(7) An overshadowing cloud
(8) The voice of God from the cloud
(9) The announcement “This is my Son…; listen to him”
(10) The silence of the disciples about what they had seen

Points of difference from Mark and Matthew
v. 28 “Now about eight days after these sayings” (perhaps via Lev. 23:33-36) “and went up on the mountain to pray”
v. 29 “And as he was praying”
vv. 31-32 “who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep but kept awake, and they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were departing from him,…”
v. 33 “not knowing what he said” (similar in Mark but omitted in Matthew)
v. 35 “my Chosen” rather than “Beloved” (Matt and Mark)
v. 36 Silence commanded by Jesus in Matthew and Mark

Key words
V. 28. to oros = “the mountain”: Consider Luke’s “theological geography” in the following passages: Luke 3:5 (OT quote); 4:29; 6:12; 8:32; 19:29 (Olives), 37 (Olives); 21:21 (plural), 37 (Olives); 22:39 (Olives); 23:30.

V. 28. proseuchomai = “pray”: Jesus in prayer: 3:21 (at his baptism); 5:16 (in the wilderness); 6:12 (on the mountain); 9:28, 29 (on the mountain); 11:1 (in a certain place); 22:41, 44 (at the Mount of Olives; Jesus instructing his disciples about prayer: 6:28; 11:2; 18:1, 10, 11; 20:47; 22:40, 46.

V. 31. exodos = “departure”: only here in NT; The word appears in LXX of Israel’s salvation from Egypt (Ps. 104:38; 113:1) and euphemistically of death (Wisdom of Solomon 3:2; 7:6).

V. 31. doxa = “glory”: Luke 2:9, 14, 32 (all in reference to the Lord/God); 4:6 (offered by Satan to Jesus); 9:26, 31, 32; 12:27 (of Solomon); 14:10 (honor accorded a guest); 17:18 (praise to God); 19:38 (praise to Jesus at entry into Jerusalem); 21:27 (the splendor of the coming Son of Man); 24:26 (the glory of Christ following suffering).

V. 35. ho eklelegmenos (a verbal adjective of eklego ) = “the chosen”): This form of the word appears only here in the NT. Other forms of verb in Luke: 6:13 (Jesus chooses 12 apostles “on the mountain”); 10:42 (Mary chooses to be taught by Jesus); 14:7 (guests choose the places of honor). In the LXX the verb exelexato refers to the Lord’s choosing the one “who is his, who is holy, and will cause him to come near to him” (Num.16:5: the one so chosen was Moses). At Isaiah 42:1 the Greek has the noun eklektos and the parallel is pais mou rather than huios mou as here; the reference is to the Servant of the Lord. Eklektos is used for the only “Jesus” in the Old Testament, i.e., Joshua, at Numbers 11:28. At Luke 23:35 Jesus is mocked at the cross by those who challenge him to save himself “if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One”; there, too, the noun form eklektos is used. At the baptismal announcement Luke (3:22) follows Mark in using agapētos (“beloved”).

V. 35. akouete autou = “listen to him”: The words are identical to those that describe the one Moses promised at Deut. 18:15. He said that the Lord would “raise up for you a prophet like me from among you … you shall listen to him.”

V. 37. “On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain”: Luke places the miracle of Jesus’ rebuking the unclean spirit on the day following the transfiguration event. That detail is not mentioned in Mark’s version; neither is the discussion between Jesus and the disciples on the way down the mountain (Mark 9:9-13). Here, the descent from “the mountain” leads to the clamor of the crowds to meet their needs. The sequence sounds like that in chapter 6 where after commissioning the twelve “on the mountain,” “Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place,” where the crowds met them (6:12-19). Note the comparison and contrast with the first lesson about Moses’ descent from the mountain.

V. 41. hō genea apistos kai diestrammenē = “O faithless and perverse generation!”: Luke writes several times of Jesus’ teaching about “this generation” (11:30-51), including “this generation’s rejection of Jesus (17:25). The description “faithless generation” appears on Jesus’ lips in the same story at Mark 9:19, but the addition of “perverse” seems to originate from Deuteronomy 32:5 (LXX).

V. 42. epetimēsen de ho ‘Iēsous tō pneumatic tō akathartō = “But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit”: The verb “rebuke” is a technical term in the Bible. The only legitimate subject of the verb is YHWH in the OT and Jesus in the NT. The object of the verb is always some expression of chaos that stands in the way of God’s plans for the orderly rule of the kingdom. In the OT, the representatives of chaos are the sea, monsters of the sea, and Satan. In the synoptic gospels, such representatives of chaos are the sea, demons and unclean spirits, and Satan in the form of Peter.

V. 42. kai iasato ton paida kai apedōken auton tō patri autou = “and he healed the boy and gave him back to his father”: The sequence is similar to Elijah’s raising from the dead the widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Kings 17:23) and to Jesus’ raising from the dead the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:15). In each case, as here, the on who worked the miracle “gave him back” to his mother or father. The healings result in the restoration of relationships. Immediately following this scene, Jesus tells his disciples of his impending arrest (vss. 43b-45).

V. 43. epi tē megaleiotēti = “at the majesty of God”: The Greek word appears at 2 Peter 1:16 as a reference to the transfiguration event and the words God spoke on the mountain. The people saw in Jesus’ act of rebuking the work and power of God.


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