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God’s Word for You

Luke 9:28 Up on the mountain

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-13)

28 About eight days after he made these statements, Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up on the mountain to pray.

In Matthew 17:1 and Mark 9:2, the interval of time is “after six days.” It’s not crucial to our understanding of the text to figure out why there is a difference in this case. Luke’s intent with the passage is to show a connection between this event, the transfiguration, and the declaration that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the other important statements of the chapter. What are “these statements” that Jesus had made? Even though we have just read them, it will help us to understand the transfiguration if we list them again and notice their significance:

  1. Jesus is the Christ of God, the anointed Messiah (Luke 9:20).
  2. Jesus was going to suffer at the hands of the leaders of the Jews (Luke 9:22a).
  3. Jesus was going to be crucified and would die (Luke 9:22b).
  4. Jesus would rise from the dead (Luke 9:22c).
  5. Jesus will come again in glory to judge mankind (Luke 9:26).

Each of these points is given a new and glorious emphasis with the transfiguration. Jesus was saying with this revelation: “I, the glorified Jesus, shining like lightning and surrounded by the great glory—the Glory of the Lord—I am the Christ of God, the anointed Messiah. I am the one who will let myself suffer at the hands of the Jews and be killed by them. I have promised that I will rise from the dead, and I, Jesus, God Almighty, will certainly do it. And I will come again in this same glory to judge mankind—the glory of my Father in heaven and of the Holy Spirit, and surrounded by my holy angels.”

Jesus took three disciples with him: Peter, James, and John. These three were becoming a kind of inner circle. To me they recall the three mighty men of King David, who are part of the larger group of “thirty mighty men” but were also set apart from it (1 Chronicles 11:26-47). Jesus’ three inner circle disciples were going to witness the revelation of his glory here on the mountain, just as they would witness the depth of his state of humiliation in the Garden of Gethsemane, and of course his crucifixion and resurrection, too.

What mountain was this? In the fourth century, Christians began to guess that it was probably Mount Tabor, a high mountain in Galilee. But in Mark 9:30, the evangelist says that from this mountain Jesus “left that place and passed through Galilee,” coming at last to Capernaum (Mark 9:33). Another suggestion is the massive and lofty Mount Hermon on Israel’s extreme northern border (Psalm 42:6, 133:3). But Mount Hermon is 10,000 feet tall and snow-capped year round. There are many other peaks and heights in the area that would fit the description we have here.

Having arrived, Jesus began to pray. Prayer is always an act of worship. For example, Anna the prophetess is described as worshiping God in two ways: fasting and praying (Luke 2:36). Prayer is not the only means of worship, but it is always an act of worship. Pagans who speak to their false gods in prayer are in fact worshiping those false gods (1 Kings 18:26). We are warned not to pray even to angels or worship them (Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10). We also do not pray to the dead. Isaiah says: “You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name” (Isaiah 63:16). Arguing that praying to a dead saint such as Mary simply increases the number of people praying for us cannot change the facts of Scripture: Prayer is an act of worship, and our worship belongs to God alone. “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8).

In heaven, believers are shown to be worshiping God by praying to him even there (Revelation 11:16-17). Jesus warns that those who attempt to pray to God without faith are not worshiping him at all: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain” (Matthew 15:8-9). Even the prayers of Jesus are an act of worship, giving honor and glory to God the Father, as he says, “Father, hallowed be your name” (Luke 11:2). During this particular prayer on the mountain, God the Father would not only accept the worship of his incarnate Son, but he would also glorify his Son for the sake of those who were with him, and for our sakes, too.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

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.



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