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God’s Word for You

Luke 9:33-36 His divinity and his humanity

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, May 11, 2018

It is sometimes pointed out that between them, Moses and Elijah represent the entire Old Testament. Moses was the receiver of the Law, the greatest of the prophets, and in a class of prophets all by himself. He is the end of the age of the patriarchs, since before him the patriarchs were each the priests of their families, but after him the tribe of Levi became the priestly family of Israel. Elijah is also the representation of the prophets of Israel. There were a few prophets before him (such as Samuel) and many who came after, but Elijah was the one taken physically into heaven without dying. But more importantly, both Moses and Elijah pointed ahead to Christ—to salvation through Christ alone.

33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let’s make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not realize what he was saying.

I’ve heard it speculated that the transfiguration might have taken place during the Feast of Tabernacles, and that is why Peter thought of putting up shelters. This might be the case; the chronology of this half-year of Jesus’ ministry isn’t precisely known. Luke’s word, skenas, can mean either a tent or the kind of temporary hut used in the Feast of the Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:42-43).

Peter didn’t want the moment to end, but the moment was all about preparing Jesus and his disciples for what was about to take place. It was time to head back down the mountain. Luke doesn’t describe the way Moses and Elijah left Jesus; he simply says, “they were leaving.” Did they ascend? Did they disappear into the cloud? Did they just fade away like the morning mist? They left, and it was time for Jesus and his disciples to leave, too—but there was time for one more thing.

34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and covered them with its shadow. They were afraid as they went into the cloud. 35 Then a voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen.  Listen to him!”

Suddenly, God the Father spoke. The glory of the Lord darkened with a shadow, and God spoke. The Father’s words were comforting, very similar to what he said at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:17). Luke’s account of the Father’s words is slightly different from Matthew and Mark. The same thing happens as the Evangelists report the note written by Pontius Pilate; all of them have a slightly incomplete record of the full message. Here, the Father seems to have said, “This is my chosen Son, whom I love. Listen to him.” Matthew and Mark draw our attention to the Father’s love for Jesus. Luke underscores the Father’s sovereign choice. Either way, God’s compassion also reaches out to us who put our faith in Jesus our Savior.

Throughout history, God has always warned about listening him alone, and giving him our full obedience. He told Moses, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words” (Deuteronomy 4:10). He warned: “I am bringing disaster on this people…because they have not listened to my words” (Jeremiah 6:19). Yet now, all of this changed. The Father does not say, “Listen to me, and to my words only.” He says, “This is my chosen Son—listen to him! Listen to his words.” The Father magnifies and glorifies the Son; not only his atoning work, but everything he says. Father and Son are in complete harmony and in full agreement with one another. If this were not so; if Jesus was in any way out of step with the Father, how different everything would be! The Father would certainly never have commanded us to listen to him. The Father would never have permitted this Jesus to preach and teach and perform miracles as he did. The son would have had to have been destroyed; there would have been another rebellion in heaven. But that’s not what happened. The temptations and proddings of the devil did not turn Jesus’ mind at all. Everything the Father wills, the Son wills and does. Everything the Father wants, the Son does. There is no disconnection between them. There is no disharmony. There is only absolute and complete agreement and harmony in everything and in every way.

36 After the voice had spoken, they found Jesus alone. They kept this secret and at that time they told no one anything they had seen.

The words “Jesus alone” are enough for us to know that his transfiguration was at an end. Once again, he looked like Jesus the man. He was still both God and man, but the glory was no longer on display, and so the three disciples kept this event as a secret until later, after the resurrection of Jesus, when all of the disciples saw Jesus in his glory.

The transfiguration shows us that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus had already shown this with his words and with his miracles, with his omniscient knowledge of men’s hearts and other things (John 1:48). But with the transfiguration, the veil was removed, and Jesus was displayed in all his glory. Now the disciples could understand what it meant for him to walk among them; He was setting aside his full powers as God to be able to lay down his life on the cross for our sakes, to atone for what we have done. His divinity is what he is; his humanity is what he embraced to save us.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

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Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.