8Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” 20He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” 21He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, 22saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 23Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? 26Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now 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. 33Just 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. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36When 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.
What I am Learning:
Moses and Elijah were the two most revered people for the People of Israel. Moses represents the Torah - the instruction of God. Elijah represents the prophetic or truth-telling part of their tradition. In his conversation with them, Jesus is confirmed as a person of high honor. Luke is saying that Jesus is the embodiment of the Torah and the prophets - he is the human being restored to the image of God.
This whole scene reveals the depth and character of that image.
The disciples acknowledge that he is the messiah. But he rejects the notion that the messiah would use violence to remove the Romans from power. He says that he is going to be rejected by the religious leaders, be killed, and after three days to rise again. Jesus is going to use the power of nonviolent love in an effort to win over the Romans - to win over everyone - to the Reign of God.
Jesus takes Peter, James and John to the mountain. As he is praying he is transfigured - his face shone like Moses and his clothes became dazzling white. After the conversation with Moses and Elijah, a cloud comes over the mountain and a voice says, "This is my Son, my chosen, listen to him."
Luke loves to put contrasting stories together to make a larger point.
Jesus shares with his disciples his nonviolent vision of the messiah and they really don't know what to say. They have a vision of Jesus, Moses and Elijah and of God's presence on the mountain and they say something silly. God ends up saying to be quiet and listen.
The experience on the mountain confirms Jesus and Jesus' vision of what it means to be the messiah. The messiah is to risk his life rather than to take life. The messiah is to risk his life for all people, not just for God's chosen people.
When we see Jesus risking his life to win over all people to God's Way of Mutuality, we see into the very character of God.
Jesus' glory is not that his clothes got bleached, nor that he shown like some plastic santa claus lit up with a light bulb.
Jesus' glory is not his power over others.
Jesus' glory is his willingness to be human and to risk his life for love of all his sisters and brothers we might learn to be human too, and to be human with each other.
Jesus reveals that God's glory, as Ireneus said, is "humanity fully alive."