The Transfiguration of the Lord
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the story of the transfiguration. This comes shortly after Peter confesses Jesus as Messiah, and Jesus then tells his closest followers that he will be rejected, suffer, and be killed, and that they are called to follow. In the account of Mark and Matthew, Peter objects to this, and Jesus rebukes him: “Get behind me, Satan!”
Luke is a little gentler and does not include the rebuke of Peter, but all three Synoptic Gospels tell us that at the transfiguration the voice of God says about Jesus, “Listen to him!” To back this up, Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets, the whole Jewish tradition out of which Jesus came, appear. The transfiguration story reminds us of Moses and the exodus: God speaking on a mountain, reference in verse 31 to Jesus’ “departure” (which in Greek also means “exodus”), dazzling light. As Moses led the struggle for freedom from Pharaoh, Jesus, having come down from the mountain, rescues a child from the power of an “unclean spirit,” a sign of his divine authority.
Peter suggests staying on the mountain of transfiguration and building shrines to Elijah and Moses. In contrast, British bishop Tom Wright says, “The more open we are to God and to the different dimensions of God’s glory, the more we seem to be open to the pain of the world” (Luke for Everyone [Westminster John Knox, 2004], 114).
What kind of authority does Jesus have for us? What does it mean to listen to him? Can we accept any more than Peter that listening to God often does lead to suffering of one kind or another? When are we suffering or acting for God, and when are we suffering or acting for our own benefit?
Hermann Weinlick, retired pastor