THE TRANSFIGURATION PROVIDES VISUAL AND AUDIBLE TESTIMONY TO BOTH THE IDENTITY OF JESUS AND THE NECESSITY OF HIS REDEMPTIVE MISSION
Our studies in Luke have concentrated on the Identity and Mission of Jesus as the Promised Messiah. But as both of these have come more into focus, the disciples have stumbled over the suffering and redemptive phase being a necessary prerequisite to reigning in glory. Here God the Father provides a brief foretaste of the coming kingdom by unmasking the glory of His Son while showing His interaction with both Moses and Elijah in a context focused on the upcoming suffering and rejection and crucifixion of Jesus. These redemptive events must precede His resurrection and ascension back to the Father from whence He can return to usher in His glorious kingdom on earth.
J. Ligon Duncan: Is your Jesus big enough? Is the Jesus you worship big enough to overshadow everything else in your life? Luke is saying the real Jesus is, the Jesus revealed in the Scripture — absolutely He is — He’s worth living for, He’s worth dying for, He’s worth denying yourself anything for, but is your Jesus big enough? If He isn’t, it’s not this Jesus.
Constable: This event is the climax of the “identity of Jesus” motif in all the Synoptics. Here the disciples saw and heard who Jesus really was. Luke’s particular emphasis was the sufferings of Jesus that were coming. This comes through in his description of Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah (Lk 9:30-31) and his interpretation of what the heavenly voice said (Lk 9:35). The whole scene recalls God’s appearance to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exod. 24), and it anticipates the second coming of Christ. There is a recurrence of the three themes of Jesus’ identity (Lk 9:20), His passion (Lk 9:22), and glory (Lk 9:26) from the previous pericope but in reverse order (Lk 9:29, 30, 35). These are the main points the reader should identify as significant in Luke’s narrative.
I. (:28-31) THE IMPACT OF THE TRANSFIGURATION EVENT ON JESUS = CONFIRMATION REGARDING HIS REDEMPTIVE MISSION
A. (:28) Venue for the Transfiguration Event
“And some eight days after these sayings,”
Other synoptics say 6 days … but Luke just includes the bookend days on either side rather than just the intervening days.
“it came about that He took along Peter and John and James,”
His devoted inner circle
“and went up to the mountain to pray.”
Ties in with the pattern of the priority that Jesus gave to prayer
Steven Cole: To understand the transfiguration, we must see it in its context. Luke has been gradually revealing to us the identity of Jesus Christ. People had different views—He is John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets come back (9:19). But by divine revelation, Peter acknowledged that Jesus is the Christ of God (9:20; see Matt. 16:17). But immediately after Peter’s confession, Jesus told the disciples of His impending death and resurrection. This jarred them and they did not understand what He was talking about, in spite of His repeated references to it (9:44-45; 18:31-34). They understood Christ as King, but they did not yet understand that He first must suffer and then enter into His glory (24:26).
Jesus also has made it plain that those who follow Him must follow in the way of the cross (9:23-26). Jesus did not come to please Himself, but to do the will of the Father, which supremely included the cross. Those who are His disciples must also deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow Him, even if it means persecution or martyrdom. Jesus concluded that discourse with a difficult verse: “But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (9:27).
B. (:29) Visible Physical Transformation
“And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different,
and His clothing became white and gleaming.”
1. His Face Became Different
MacArthur: What are they seeing? They’re not seeing light shining on Jesus. They’re seeing the glory of God shining out from Jesus. This is the revelation that you have here, the Shekinah, the same presence that walked in the garden in the cool of the day and talked with Adam and Eve, the same presence that appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai in the glory that shined on his face, the same presence that appeared in the wilderness leading the children of Israel by a pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire at night, the same glorious, blazing light that came into the tabernacle and into the temple. This is God, this is the glory of God manifest, not on Jesus as on the face of Moses, but from within Him as evidence that this is God Himself and the glory comes from the inside. The truth of who He is is revealed in the Son’s transfiguration.
2. His Clothing Become White and Gleaming
Lenski: [Gospel writers] report facts, actual changes that occurred in Jesus himself and not something that was merely subjective, only in the eyes and the minds of the disciples.
Gilbrant: In classical Greek leukos describes, among other things, the color of snow, hair, stones, clothing, and dust. Like the opposite color melas (“black”), leukos assumes a figurative meaning, with the former symbolizing that which is morally evil and the latter symbolizing purity, holiness, and divinity. In classical texts leukos is the color of sacrificial animals and priestly clothing. Indeed, Plato suggests that the color white is pleasing to the gods (cf. Liddell-Scott). Septuagint Usage = The religious practices of the Hebrews indicate that they held white in similar esteem. In addition to its ordinary literal usages, leukos appears in the Septuagint as the color of priestly garments. Figuratively leukos symbolizes purification from sin (Psalm 51:7; Isaiah 1:18), and a vision of God is dominated by the color leukos (Daniel 7:9). Apart from the four instances mentioned in the previous paragraph, the New Testament uses leukos as the color associated with heaven. Most references are to white clothing, as in the descriptions of the transfiguration of Jesus, the post-Resurrection appearances of angels, or the heavenly citizens in the Book of Revelation. (See, for example, Matthew 17:2; Matthew 28:3; Acts 1:10; Revelation 3:4,5.) Even the throne of God is white (Revelation 20:11). Revelation 1:14 portrays the victorious Christ in terms reminiscent of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9; both of these scenes are dominated by white.
C. (:30-31) Visitation by Moses and Elijah
1. (:30) Dialogue
“And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah,”
2. (:31) Departure = the Focus
“who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure
which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”
Morris: That such a topic was chosen at such a time shows how central the death of Jesus is. The use of the word exodus for death is unusual and we should probably discern some Exodus typology. The Exodus had delivered Israel from bondage. Jesus by His “exodus” would deliver His people from a far worse bondage.
J. C. Ryle: Moses and Elijah were the King’s servants, but Jesus was the King’s Son. Moses and Elijah were planets, but Jesus is the sun. They were witnesses, but He is the truth.
II. (:32-33) THE IMPACT OF THE TRANSFIGURATION EVENT ON PETER, JAMES AND JOHN = CONFUSION
A. (:32) Saw the Transfiguration Event Correctly
“Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep;
but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him.”
1. Saw the Glory of Jesus
2. Saw Moses and Elijah
Donald Miller: What the Law intended, and what the prophets promised, is now here in its fullness in Jesus
B. (:33) Suggested An Outcome That Was Off Target
“And it came about, as these were parting from Him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah ‘– not realizing what he was saying.”
MacArthur: Well, Peter didn’t realize that this was not the beginning of the kingdom. He didn’t realize that this was not the launch point. Sure Elijah was to come at the time of the kingdom, he knew that. That fit. Sure during the kingdom there was going to be a Feast of Tabernacles and they could have one right there in the kingdom to parallel the one at the same time down in Jerusalem. All of the elements of the kingdom that Peter had longed for were there; the glory of Christ was displayed. Why go back? But he doesn’t realize what he’s saying. The plan is fixed. Before there will ever be a crown, there has to be a what? A cross, doesn’t there? The glory will come and it will come in the future, but it’s not going to come then and it’s not going to come there because there has to be a cross. And the Son of Man must go and die as the prophets said He would. He must be the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. He must be wounded for our transgressions. He must be bruised for our iniquities. The judgment of God for us must fall on Him. He must die as the sacrifice for sin. He must be the ultimate and final Lamb, the one whose sacrifice perfects forever those that are sanctified. There can be no crown without a cross. There can be no kingdom without a Calvary. This isn’t it, Peter. This is just a preview to firm your faith so that you will always know, no matter what happens, when I die and when I leave this world and when you die, crucified upside down, or in the case of James, martyred, or in the case of John, exiled an old man to Patmos under persecution, as you go through those things and as the rest of the apostles go through their martyrdoms, and most all of them were martyred, of course, they will remember that that is not the end of the story. There is a glorious kingdom beyond this life and the King in that kingdom is going to come again and bring that kingdom to earth. His glory will fill the earth. That will come, but not now, Peter. He says, you don’t know what you’re saying.
III. (:34-33) THE IMPACT OF THE TRANSFIGURATION EVENT DELIVERED BY GOD THE FATHER = CLARITY – BY WAY OF DIVINE TESTIMONY
A. (:34) Divine Presence
“And while he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them;
and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.”
J. Ligon Duncan: And in the Old Testament what is a cloud so often a symbol of? The presence of God; the presence of God with Israel. Protecting and guiding them in the wilderness was a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. When God spoke to His people He often spoke out of the cloud with thunder and lightning and Jesus pictures His coming again on clouds. It’s a symbol of the powerful presence of God and this cloud overshadows the mountain and these men tremble and then a voice speaks.
B. (:35) Divine Testimony
“And a voice came out of the cloud, saying,
‘This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!’”
Darrell Bock: Every time I come to this passage a particular American commercial rings in my ears. It has various versions, but one of them is a scene of people sitting in the stands at a tennis match, their heads turning to and fro in unison, following the progress of the tennis ball during the point. Then a man in the stands turns to his friend and says, “My broker works for E. F. Hutton, and E. F. Hutton says…” Suddenly every head stops and everyone leans in to hear the financial advice. The closing line of the ad is “When E. F. Hutton talks, everybody listens.”
Testimony of Peter in his epistle: 2 Peter 1:16-18
“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’ – and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the mountain.”
C. (:36a) Divine Focus
“And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.”
This was just a preview of the coming kingdom; not time for the permanent institution. Let’s focus just on Jesus and on the mission the Father had chosen for Him to complete.
“And they kept silent, and reported to no one in those days
any of the things which they had seen.”
CONCLUSION: THE IMPACT OF THE TRANSFIGURATION EVENT ON US
– Worship Jesus in His Supremacy as the Beloved Son of God the Father, His Chosen One
– Understand the Relationship Between the Redemptive Mission of Jesus (Which Involves Suffering and Death) and His Return in Glory
– Understand the Transition from the Old Testament Time Period to the New Era Inaugurated by the Coming of Christ to Bring the Kingdom of God to Earth
– Anticipate the Reunion with All Saints When Jesus Returns in Glory
– Listen and Respond to Divine Revelation = Be Genuine Followers of Jesus Christ