Transfiguration Sunday

Luke 9: 29- 36

The Gospel of Luke begins verses 28-36 with the words ‘About a week after he had said these things’, but what are these things being referred to? We see that in the previous verses of chapter nine Jesus has sent out his disciples: He has given them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. Can imagine the disciple’s excitement as they returned from their journeys? People had been healed, demons had been cast out and everything Jesus had told them has been proven true!

From this excitement we are drawn deeper into the amazing revelation, along with the disciples that Jesus is more than he seems. Along with the disciples we witness Jesus miraculously feeding five thousand men with five loaves and two fish. We hear Peter’s declaration that, Jesus, is God’s Messiah. The culmination of what God’s people have been waiting for centuries is declared by a fisherman. With this declaration and all that the disciples have witnessed, they must have been exhilarated. Then Jesus tells his disciples about his suffering and death – exhilaration to agitation – God’s Messiah is to suffer and die?

A week after this announcement Jesus is altered on a mountain top and meets with two of the top Jewish heroes, Moses and Elijah. There must have been a roller coaster of emotions; half dreading what was around the corner and half excitedly anticipating what was around the bend. It is in the midst of these emotions, in the intersection of choice, that we find Jesus praying to his Father and the disciples, Peter, John and James fast asleep.

It is as Jesus is praying that ‘The appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white’. The Gospel of Luke uses the word ‘altered’ to describe the change in Jesus’ appearance, whereas Matthew and Mark use the word ‘Metamorphosis’ to explain what happened. The word ‘Metamorphosis’ carries connotations of a permanent and radical alteration, as in the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. The use of the word ‘Metamorphosis’ could lead us to believe that the change in Jesus was similar, hence the reason for Luke simply referring to a temporary change in Jesus’ external appearance.

Luke’s use of this word is to emphasise the confirmation of Jesus’ ministry rather than the transformation or transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain. Although this alteration of Jesus was an amazing experience for the disciples, it was also the time when Jesus wrestled with which side of the mountain he would climb down. Could he, would he, travel to Jerusalem and to the mountain of his death? Of course we know the outcome, Jesus on the mountain committed himself to a course of action that would change the world forever.

In following Jesus are we committed or are we still wrestling with what it might mean to go the path God wants us on? Are we committed enough to love our neighbours? Are we committed enough to love those who aren’t like us? Are we committed enough to talk about Jesus, even to those who might persecute us? Are we?

-Stuart Simpson, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand


Gracious God, we know that our Lord Jesus decided to continue to journey towards Jerusalem rather than take another route. We know that this decision led to his crucifixion and yet it also led to the greatest act of love and reconciliation the world has ever seen. Holy God, we know that we aren’t Jesus, and yet as his disciples, we desire to follow his footsteps, which means we too have to continue the difficult journey down from the mountain top vistas to the often dark shadowed valleys. Strengthen us to love as you love, to show radical hospitality to those hard to like and forgive those who have harmed us.
Help us to hold onto the truth that we do none of these things in our own power. Help us to remember that it is Jesus who has made it possible to do what seems impossible. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Amen

Image via