Luke 9.28-36 — Glory-Clouded Mountain

Today we celebrate what is called the Transfiguration. This is the culmination of what not means when God reveals himself — in Epiphany. We started by looking at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River and we heard the voice from Heaven saying, “Behold my Son. Listen to him.” We heard him in the Plains saying, “To those who hear: Love your enemies…” And we come full circle to a Mountain and hear the same voice from Heaven giving the same command: “This is my Son. My Chosen One. Listen to him.” 

This is the main point of the text today: Jesus is God’s Son. His Chosen One. Listen to him. 

In order to hear what Jesus is saying, we need to consider some keys points leading to our passage first. Right before our passage We see that Peter confesses that Jesus is the Anointed One of God (v.20). Lest Peter and the disciples think that this means Jesus will take up a sword and start to conquer his enemies, Jesus tells them that Peter is right, but that he must “suffer many things” and “be rejected” and “killed” and “be raised on the third day”. This is what will happen to Jesus. And all those who want to follow him must follow the same path. V. 23: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” If you want to save your life, you will lose it. // This is why there are many who will say “Lord, Lord” to Jesus but they never really knew him. We’ll get into that more in a bit. That we want to use God for our own purposes. But he will not be beholden to any person.

Now our passage—a week later. Luke 9.28-36.

This passage is filled with Old Testament imagery. For those that would want to only read the NT, or that Jesus wipes away the OT, this passage asks the question: How can you understand the mission and life of Jesus apart from the OT? The fact is, you cannot. It takes more work than most of us are willing to do to see how Jesus fulfills all these OT pieces. 

First, Jesus leads them up a mountain. This is reminiscent of Moses ascending Mt. Sinai with the elders fo Israel to receive God’s words. They ascend the mountain and a cloud of glory covers the mountain. Like our passage. Moses < God’s Words. BUT We < Jesus’ Words.

Second, like Moses, Jesus’ face was altered. When Moses went up the mountain and came back down he would cover his face—as we heard just a moment ago from Exodus 34. But all of Jesus’ was lighted up. 

Third, Moses and Elijah show up and are talking with Jesus. Why these two men? This represents the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). They might have been consoling Jesus because he was getting ready to be rejected just like they were. The very people who followed them, gave up on them. Ridiculed them. Turned against them. // Maybe they were encouraging him to finish the race that was set before him. They had been waiting in hope that God would come and redeem his people. They both pointed people forward to a day when God himself would lead his people. But, v. 31 tells us explicitly what they were talking about. They were talking about his “departure.” And if you notice in your pew Bibles, there’s a little footnote. If you go down to the bottom where that footnote is, it says that they were literally talking to him about his “EXODUS”. 

There are many ways to refer to a departure, why would Luke say they were talking about his Exodus? Well, the word is there for a reason. Why? We have to start with what happened in the Exodus from Egypt. They were escaping slavery in Egypt to enter into the Promised Land. It’s true that the Jews at that time were under Roman occupation and were like slaves to them. It is true they were awaiting redemption from their rule. But there are a couple things that are different. And these differences make all the difference. 

The reason Peter and the disciples couldn’t wrap their heads around what the confession that Jesus is the Anointed One of God was that they chose not to see that the way of the cross is the way of Christ. They, like us, wanted their lives to be devoid of difficulty. We may not say that. But we show it when we huff and murmur under our breath. We show that what we want is a Christ without a cross. 

But it is here that God graciously shows the disciples that in spite of how things look, Jesus—while humble—is glorious. Just for a moment he pulled back the veil on who Jesus is. The heavens were cracked open just a bit and the glory cloud of God’s presence descended on them. Assurance: It’s worth taking up your cross!

// Whether we like to admit it or not, we want to control God. We want him to do our bidding. Whether it’s the discouragement that will not lift. The spouse that will not budge. The frustrations you feel will give you a glimpse into what’s really going on in your heart. So rather than just moving on and remaining frustrated, I’d encourage you to pause and reflect on why you’re so upset. 

We see this tension in our text. It comes with the two quotes in our text. V.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. Moses and Elijah were saying their good-byes and Peter blurts out: Wait! Let’s stay here a while. 

There are moments in our lives where God gives us a breakthrough and we want to linger for a while. But oftentimes, we want to linger longer than he intended. 
— Remember the illustration I shared last week about the fellow on Step 8 of Alocoholics Anonymous? He had an epiphany. A moment where he forgave with his heart. 8: MAKE LIST OF THOSE WE HARMED. But it’s Step 9 where breakthrough happens. GO TO THOSE PEOPLE AND MAKE AMENDS. — It is too easy to stay in a place where it’s just me and God. And this is what Peter is trying to do. He was trying to control the revelation. He was trying to keep the glory to himself. He was trying to keep the glory cloud on the mountain. 

But see that’s the problem. You and I can think that life—and the Christian life—is meant to be lived from moment to moment. When we go through difficulties, we get surprised or upset and want to hole ourselves up in our rooms. We want some kind of glory cloud to descend and for gold dust to fall from the ceiling. But that’s not the way of Christ.

This is seen in the second quotation. V.35:  And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” Just like at Jesus’ baptism, we hear the voice from heaven saying: This is my Son. But he adds something. “My Chosen One.” What’s happening here? 

This is used throughout the OT to reference God’s Chosen King.

Psalm 89.3:

3  You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;

I have sworn to David my servant:

4  ‘I will establish your offspring forever,

and build your throne for all generations.’”

Then we read that this Chosen King is also a Chosen Servant:

Specifically Isa 42.1:

Is. 42:1    Behold my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen one, in whom my soul delights.

And then we hear it again in Luke’s Gospel at the end, Luke 23:

33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him [as he hung on the tree]

Is this not what Jesus was saying just a week before this moment? If anyone would follow me: Take up your cross everyday and follow him. But see. The redemption you and I hold so dear could not have happened if Peter had won the day. If the Lord had listened to Peter’s voice. Whether we admit it or not, we want to stay at that moment of epiphany on the mountain. But that’s not where God’s best work is done. It is in the coming down the mountain. 

Our faith was never meant to end with us. This is what Paul was talking about in the passage we heard from 2Corinthians. Unlike Moses who would cover his shining face, we behold the glory of the Suffering Servant on another mountain. This is where our salvation happens. At Calvary, God reveals that his glory is not after the crucifixion…but in the crucifixion. If you will hear it. Father forgive them. They do not know what they are saying (like Peter). They do not know what they are doing. 2Cor 3

6 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 4:1   Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 

Intentionally talking and ministering to others can be hard work. It was intended to be hard work. You have the Spirit of God, who has given you the freedom to not find your hope and acceptance in what others think about you. You have a ministry because he has first ministered to you. He has washed your feet so that you can wash others’ feet. Stifled from what others’ think? You are their slave. Freedom in our acceptance.

Too often we get wrapped up in our own issues. This is nothing more than wanting to build a tent so that God can keep ministering just to me. We will never have enough ministry for ourselves, brothers and sisters. Because we are constantly needy. But it is when we minister and speak to others about our Glorious and Crucified King that we find true liberty. Yes, the Lord has provided such an epiphany for you—to see his glory. But it’s when You and I go out and do the hard work of reconciliation. That’s where the Lord really meets us in our times of need. More than just going to church on Sunday! In going out, we find our purpose.

Matt Wireman