And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being….
When my daughter Sofia was seven years old, she once unabashedly told me that I was the “best Papi in the world.” In a selfish effort to boost my fragile ego, I asked her why she thought this to be true. She simply smiled at me and said, “because you’re mine.”
Our Gospel text this week (Luke 9:28-36) stands as a profound signpost in the narrative accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke. On the mountaintop where the Transfiguration occurs, we are presented with a definitive answer to a question that is repeatedly posed in the aforementioned Gospels. The question is: Who is this man that wind and waves obey? Who is this man that heals the sick and forgives sins? The Transfiguration becomes the place in each Gospel where the answer to these questions is proclaimed. It is where Jesus turns his face toward Jerusalem, opening the first chapter in the final act of his life on earth.
The images we see in Luke 9, of lightning, clouds, glory, and the voice of God, act as a recapitulation of the scene at Mount Sinai during the Exodus; Moses came down from the mountain with his face aglow. He was shining with a reflected light-a reflected glory. Just as the moon radiates with the light from the sun, Moses was reflecting a light from
However, in the brilliance of Jesus’ appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration, there is no glory that comes DOWN on Jesus; rather, glory comes OUT of him. It emanates from him as opposed to being reflected upon him from some other source. Jesus is the source of his own light. The Glory Cloud in the Old Testament was a partial representation of the glory of God, but Jesus IS the glory of God. Hence, the writer of Hebrews states “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being….”
As a witness to what is unfolding on the mountaintop, Peter is starstruck when he rubs the sleep from his eyes and sees Jesus standing in conversation with two heroes of the faith–Moses and Elijah. The three are discussing the fulfillment of Jesus’ departure. In Greek, the word “departure” is actually “exodus.” The death and resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate exodus. While Moses liberated God’s people from economic and social oppression, Jesus will soon liberate them from sin, and even death itself.
As always, the reliably impulsive Peter blurts out his proposal to build a shelter (tabernacles) for each radiant hero, as if the three were equally prominent. However, the voice of God shatters that idea from within the cloud that envelops them. He declares, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”
Jesus is NOT one more prophet in a long history of great prophets headlined by Elijah. He is not one more prophet trying to get near to God; instead, he is the God that all prophets are trying to get near. He is not a new and better lawgiver simply taking over where Moses left off. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the law and the prophets. He is utterly unique!! Jesus doesn’t reflect glory; he IS glory. He is the chosen Son of God, and as such, worthy of total and complete allegiance.
My seven year-old daughter never doubted the core identity of the man standing in front of her, nor did she question to whom she belonged. The voice of God in the cloud of glory proclaims who Jesus is-Son, Messiah and the perfect and final representation of God. A transfigured Jesus, a supernatural Jesus, is the only Jesus. You either utterly reject him or totally build your life around him. It’s all or nothing as his face, and ours with him, now turns to what awaits in Jerusalem.
Joel Van Dyke
Director of Urban Training Collaborative