Luke 9:28-36 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.
They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 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. 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 Elijahnot knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him! 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.
In each of our lives there are heightened moments of joy and awareness that forever elude adequate expression. Attempts to share these experiences fall short. Our words seem flat and empty, unable to hold the transcendent fullness of the event. We search in vain for images, for symbols that can effectively convey our enthusiasm and insight.
Peter was overcome with awe in the presence of the glory of God shining forth in Jesus, his friend and leader. In his great joy, he impulsively cried out, Let us make three dwellings!
Instinctively Peter drew upon one of the greatest expressions of joy his people experienced, the annual communal celebration of the Feast of Tents, the Feast of Tabernacles. Each year, the Jewish people looked forward to this weeklong festival. After the autumn harvest they came in one great pilgrimage to the sanctuary to offer praise and thanksgiving for Gods abundant goodness to them and to ask the Lord to send rains for the coming year. To accommodate the many people, small tents or boothsdwellingswere constructed wherever there was spaceon hillsides and housetops, and in the corners of courtyards. The booths were made of palm branches and decorated with fruit.
The Jewish people knew how to celebrate! Magnificent processions began early in the morning, with each participant carrying a palm branch and singing songs of praise. Throughout the night, men danced in the sanctuary courtyard, dressed in white garments and carrying lighted torches. The memories of the splendor of this great feast sustained and nurtured the Jewish people throughout the entire year.
In using the symbolism associated with the Feast of Tents, Luke conveys something of the mystery of Gods presence made visible in the transfigured Jesus. Peters notion to build three boothsone for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijahgave voice to the deeper reality of his desire to prolong, to celebrate, and to mark the great moment of Jesus transfiguration. What did Peter and his companions hear on the mountain that day? What did they see?
They saw Moses and Elijah converse with Jesus about the necessity of Jesus own exodus, that is, his imminent suffering, death, and glorification. They saw the prophets of the Jewish Scriptures depart and give way to the new hope held in following Jesus. The disciples were privileged to receive a sustaining glimpse of the glory of Jesus resurrection.
Peter, James, and John heard again the words spoken at Jesus baptism, This is my Son, my Chosen. The voice definitively confirmed the identity of Jesus as Gods Son and as Gods divinely elected suffering servant (Isaiah 42:1). Then, enveloped by the awesome cloud of Gods presence, the disciples received the instruction, Listen to him!
Later, in the absence of Jesus physical presence, the disciples, committed by faith, would discover meaning for their lives and direction for their mission through a dedicated adherence to, and dependence on, the gospel word.
When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone (Luke 9:36).
The mountain of transfiguration leads to the mount of Calvary. On the mount of transfiguration Jesus set his face to take the road to Jerusalem, city of his destiny (Luke 9:51). Confirmed in faith, the disciples would follow.
Like Peter, James, and John, we too join our voices with those of ancient Israel, who on the Feast of Tabernacles sang their praise and gratitude to God.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it . O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,for his steadfast love endures forever.Psalm 118:24, 29
Suggested Approach to Prayer: The Enveloping Cloud
Daily Prayer Pattern:
- I quiet myself and relax in the presence of God.
- I declare my dependence on God.
- I ask to know and love Jesus more intimately so that I may follow him in faith and with courage.
- I imagine myself being invited by Jesus to accompany him with Peter, James, and John to the mountain. As I climb, I consider in detail the arduous task I am undertaking, pausing frequently to observe the changing perspective of the terrain below. As we reach the summit, I am aware of Jesus and the disciples as they quiet themselves in prayer. I relax and enter into prayer along with them.
- I contemplate Jesus in prayer as he enters deeply into communion with God. I see this union of love reflected in his face, his posture, in his total demeanor. I allow myself to absorb this glory of God in Jesus.
- I become aware of the presence of Moses and Elijah and listen carefully to their conversation with Jesus. As the event unfolds, I am drawn into Peters excitement and desire to remain here.
- I become aware of the cloud of Gods presence enveloping us all. I listen and am aware of my own feeling response as I hear addressed to me the words, This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!
- Alone with Jesus, I let my heart express my gratitude.
- I pray the Our Father.
Review of Prayer:
- I record in my journal the thoughts and feelings that have surfaced during my prayer.