March 3, 2019
Sunday before Ash Wednesday
May be as early as February 1 or as late as March 7 inclusive
Lent 2, Alternate Reading B
March 17, 2019
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Luke 9:28-36, (37-43), The Message or Luke 9:28-36, (37-43), The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
Sermon by the Rev. Dr. George Hermanson, "Fresh Visions."
"About 8 days after" could be a foreshadowing of a later 8th day - what we now call Easter Sunday. On the 7th day, Saturday, the Sabbath, God rested; on a Sunday, the next day, the 8th day, Jesus was raised from death to new life.
Jesus selects Peter, James, and John to accompany him. He leads them up a high mountain. Although unnamed and unstated, a "high mountain" is a "thin place," a place that is close to the spiritual realm, a place for sacred encounters.
Elijah and Moses represent the Prophets and the Law. Their talking with Jesus would signify the high spiritual status of Jesus.
Because Elijah was lifted up into the heavens before his physical death, he is still looked to by Jews today as a fore-runner of the Messiah.
(An interesting experience that Elijah, Moses and Jesus share is their 40 day fast: Exodus 34:28, 1 Kings 19:8, and Matthew 4:2)
The title, "my Son, the Beloved," was earlier heard by Jesus at his baptism as a voice coming from heaven while he was praying. (Luke 3:22)
It is now confirmed to Peter, James and John by a voice coming from a cloud. They are also instructed to "Listen to him," which suggests that Jesus is of higher status than Elijah and Moses.
Peter's offer to build three dwellings for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah provides a little comic relief, for, as the text says, they did not know what to say.
See the latter part of my Introduction to John for an explanation of why Peter, James and John told no one about what they had seen until after Jesus' resurrection.
The story of the incident that happens the next day when "they" (presumably Jesus and all of the disciples) had come down from the mountain serves as a counter-point to the glorious revelation that has just occurred. The disciples are no longer having a mountain-top experience! (And the story of this incident should include Verses 44 and 45, since Verse 44 is specifically an instruction from Jesus: Listen to me - which is precisely the commandment spoken from the cloud during the Transfiguration.)
As Malina and Rohrbaugh comment (page 266, see footnote below):
A man with an only son who was seized by a spirit is in danger of being ostracized by the entire community. ... Since his son could not marry, the father faced the end of the family line, the loss of its land, and hence its place in the village. All members of his extended family were thus imperiled. The cure of this boy is thus the restoration of the family as well.
Verse 41. Jesus' response to the news that the father begged the disciples to cure his son but they could not is an insult felt all the more sharply because it is given in public. The disciples would certainly be included among the "generation."
Jesus demonstrates his high spiritual status by successfully rebuking the unclean spirit which is possessing the boy. Healing the boy and returning him to his father also results in restoring the social standing of the whole family: the boy is returned to his rightful place in the family; the family is returned to its rightful place in the village.
In Verse 41, Jesus asks a rhetorical question:
How much longer must I be with you and bear with you (you faithless and perverse generation)?
In Verse 44, Jesus begins to answer his own question:
The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.
But the disciples are too thick to take it in.
The Transfiguration is an apt Preface to Lent and Jesus' journey to Jerusalem, because what lies ahead is both a confrontation between the non-violent justice of the Kingdom of God and the violent injustice of the Roman Empire; as well as the non-violent way of the Beloved versus the hoped-for victory by the Messiah. The crowds at Jerusalem will be cheering for "the one who is bringing the Kingdom of our ancestor David." This is not the same as welcoming God's Beloved.
I wonder how much in our hearts, we are still cheering for Jesus as the triumphant Victor?
Note: Historical background information is primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels (see link below), pages 265-266.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce Malina, Richard Rohrbaugh, et. al., Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a) (NRSV)
28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not." 41 Jesus answered, "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here." 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a) (The Message)
28 About eight days after saying this, he climbed the mountain to pray, taking Peter, John, and James along. 29 While he was in prayer, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became blinding white. 30 At once two men were there talking with him. They turned out to be Moses and Elijah—31 and what a glorious appearance they made! They talked over his exodus, the one Jesus was about to complete in Jerusalem.
32 Meanwhile, Peter and those with him were slumped over in sleep. When they came to, rubbing their eyes, they saw Jesus in his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 When Moses and Elijah had left, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, this is a great moment! Let's build three memorials: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He blurted this out without thinking.
34 While he was babbling on like this, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them. As they found themselves buried in the cloud, they became deeply aware of God. 35 Then there was a voice out of the cloud: "This is my Son, the Chosen! Listen to him."
36 When the sound of the voice died away, they saw Jesus there alone. They were speechless. And they continued speechless, said not one thing to anyone during those days of what they had seen.
37 When they came down off the mountain the next day, a big crowd was there to meet them. 38 A man called from out of the crowd, "Please, please, Teacher, take a look at my son. He's my only child. 39 Often a spirit seizes him. Suddenly he's screaming, thrown into convulsions, his mouth foaming. And then it beats him black and blue before it leaves. 40 I asked your disciples to deliver him but they couldn't."
41 Jesus said, "What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring your son here."
42 While he was coming, the demon slammed him to the ground and threw him into convulsions. Jesus stepped in, ordered the vile spirit gone, healed the boy, and handed him back to his father. 43 They all shook their heads in wonder, astonished at God's greatness, God's majestic greatness.
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
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