Transfiguration: voices

TransfigVoice from the Cloud. 34 While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” 36 After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.

Clouds also serve in Luke and Acts as in other biblical accounts to manifest and conceal the presence of God (Exod 16:10; 19:9; 24:15–18; 33:9–11). Daniel foresees that the Son of Man will come to the Ancient of Days with the clouds of heaven (Dan 7:13). So, too, Jesus would be taken up in a cloud (Acts 1:9) and return on the clouds (Luke 21:27; cf. 1 Thess 4:17; Rev 1:7; 14:14).

Culpepper [206] writes: “As at Mt. Sinai, a cloud overshadowed them, and God spoke from the cloud (Exod 19:16–20). The voice from the cloud speaks the climactic affirmation of Jesus’ identity in this section of the Gospel: ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ The pronouncement echoes two verses from the OT. Psalm 2:7, ‘You are my son;/ today I have begotten you,’ was also echoed at the baptism of Jesus (3:22). Isaiah 42:1, which is one of the servant songs, reads, ‘Here is my servant, whom I uphold,/ my chosen, in whom my soul delights;/ I have put my spirit upon him;/ he will bring forth justice to the nations.’ Earlier, at the baptism of Jesus, the voice from heaven had spoken to Jesus alone: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’ (3:22). Now, the divine voice pronounces the fullest answer to the question of Jesus’ identity to this point in the Gospel. Jesus is both the unique son and the chosen Servant in whom God delighted and through whom God would bring salvation to the nations.”

A Reflection

Annemarie Reiner (of Adelaide, Australia) posted this reflection on the Transfiguration on her blog “Who Do You Say That I Am.” It is a very nice reflection for this Lenten Season.

When we look at our Gospel today we can understand why daily reflection is so important. These three disciples (and the rest of them) didn’t get who Jesus was until well after his death. They didn’t understand what had happened at the transfiguration. They didn’t understand what was happening as they witnessed Jesus’ life. They didn’t understand what was happening at the crucifixion. But they kept pondering their experiences over and over – if they didn’t we simply wouldn’t have the New Testament.

So what do we learn from this?

Every human life is filled with experiences from when we get up until we go to sleep and even in our sleep we experience our dreams. What do we do with these experiences?

Mostly we ignore them and then we forget them. Even the profound moments that come into our lives, we can shut the depth of their meaning out. We might have gone through a depression – do we take the time to ponder the meaning of this depression in my life or do I just think: thank God that is over and then fill our lives with all sorts of other distractions and then wonder why down the track I fall into another bout of depression?

I might have experienced walking with a loved one who has been sick and has died. Do I sit back and reflect upon the experience or is it too difficult to re-enter this painful period, so we try and shut it out hoping it will go away.

I might have experienced a deep hurt. Do I ponder the experience considering my own reactions and responses to the hurt or do I totally throw blame on those who hurt me without any self-reflection? So I become the victim in life and I go from one lot of blaming to the next without any examination of my own heart.

I might have deeply hurt someone myself. Do I take the time reflect upon my behavior (even if it is down the track from the experience) so as to be confronted with what I have done. Or do I just keep running away from this self-disclosure because it’s too painful?

There are numerous life experiences that we all have. Many of these experiences are profoundly mysterious. Sadly many of them become buried and we lose the richness these experiences can offer us. Not only this but we now have multi-million dollar industries offering all sorts of therapies etc. to help people cope with the results of their non-reflective lives.

Someone once said that a no-reflective life is a life not worth living. It might be more accurate to say that a non-reflective life is a life not lived – it is life rejected.

Jesus invites each of us to this holy mountain today. It might be shrouded in mystery – we may not have much of an idea who Jesus is yet – we may be confused by the experiences of life and feel lost – but Jesus says to us today to come with him. To trust him. To have faith in him. To keep thinking about our experiences but to do this with Jesus at our sides.

When we have the courage to come to the mountain with Jesus then we too may see something beyond our imagining. When we truly see Jesus transfigured (see Jesus as he truly is) then the life that Jesus offers us will begin.

A large part of the problem is that we really don’t see who Jesus is. Jesus can become our own creation – a feel safe, feel good guy that we call upon when it suits us, and we try and mould Jesus to be what we want him to be. If we truly believed in Jesus we too would not know what to say, we would be frightened, but we would hear God saying to us: Listen to him. And even in all our blindness and ignorance all we would truly want would be to Listen to Jesus – we would hunger for Jesus – not the Jesus of our own making, but the Jesus who stands before us as mystery. Can we accept such a mystery?

We, the Body of Christ must also be transformed just as Jesus was transformed – but this cannot happen until we come to this mountain in all humility. Then the horrors our world is currently experiencing may begin to fade and the light will truly shine in the darkness.

In the coming week let us pray for the desire and will to come to the mountain that Jesus invites us too so that we may encounter the true mystery before us and then ponder for a life time its meaning for ourselves and the whole of creation.

Sources:

  • Alan Culpepper, The Gospel of Luke, vol. 9 of the New Interpreter’s Bible, ed. Leander E. Keck. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004) 204-09
  • Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke in The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997) 376-85
  • Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, vol. 3 of the Sacra Pagina series, ed. Daniel J. Harrington (Collegville, MN: 1991) 150-57
  • Jerome Kodell, “Luke” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, eds. Dianne Bergant and Robert J. Karris, (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989) 954-55
  • Eugene LaVerdiere, Luke, New Testament Message 5 (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1980)
  • Leon Morris. Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3 of Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988) 190-91
  • Brian Stoffregen, “Brian P. Stoffregen Exegetical Notes” at crossmarks.com

Dictionaries

  • Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)

Scripture Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. © 1991, 1986, 1970 available at http://www.usccb.org/bible/

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