I’m learning to read the Bible as a piece of divinely inspired literature. It’s been a real paradigm shift from the set of “here’s how to understand the Bible” rules with which I grew up. The story that Luke 9 shares is pretty amazing when one looks at it in light of the entirety of scripture.
In Luke 9:18, Jesus asks for the latest gossip on who people say that He is. Some of the proposals are, John the Baptist (come back from the dead), Elijah, or maybe one of the OT prophets. Peter then nails it when he says, “You are the Christ.” Good job Peter! It is interesting that directly following the identification by Peter… Jesus says that the Son of Man must suffer, be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Notice he doesn’t mention the manner of death… but in his next statement He says that his followers must deny themselves and take up their crosses daily (Luke 9:23). He then says it’s not worth it if someone gives up his soul in an attempt to gain the whole world… an offer proposed to him by Satan in the wilderness (Luke 4:5-7).
Luke 9:28-36, the next story in Luke’s gospel, is the transfiguration… where Jesus is up on a mountain with Moses (the “prophet of old”), and Elijah. I can just hear Jesus encouraging his disciples to take a picture. See… I’m not Elijah… cause he’s right there. And by the way… I’m also not a prophet from the OT… like maybe Moses… cause he’s right here. They start talking about the “exodus” that Jesus was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Moses lead his people out of the slavery of Egypt. Jesus’ exodus was to be accomplished at Jerusalem. It had become the new symbol of spiritual slavery on earth. Then a cloud forms at the top of the mountain and everyone walks into it.
Did I mention that Jesus’ name is really Joshua? Its a confusing set of circumstances that got us to how we translate His name into the English language as “Jesus”… but his name is “Joshua”. That little gem should make this whole transfiguration scene a little more familiar.
In Exodus 24:12-15 Moses is commanded to go up on Mt. Sinai to receive the stone tablets and the law and the commandment that God had written for the instruction of the Israelites. Moses takes Joshua with him (vs. 13). Then a cloud covered the mountain (vs. 15). Then they received the law.
So flip back to the scene at the transfiguration. Moses is up on a mountain with Joshua (Jesus) they are enveloped by a cloud… what should we expect next? If the script follows suit… we should expect to have God give the law. But instead of receiving stone tablets (that was sooooo last covenant), they heard a voice (Luke 9:35) coming out of the cloud saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”
And there you have it… the new Law. This time it’s not written on stone tablets… but it is the very voice of Jesus. One other time Jesus says, “It’s better that I leave you.” I think he realized some of the limitations of being one man at one place at a time. He continues on with his logic saying, “If I go… I’ll send the Helper… the Holy Spirit.” It’s that very Holy Spirit that circumcises our hearts and speaks to each one of us directly the words and will of Jesus (John 16:7-14). It’s the NT that tells us that that the law is not on stone tablets anymore, but rather written on our hearts through the circumcision of the Holy Spirit (Romans 2:29).
If that wasn’t enough… Luke 9:37-45 presents the mythos of the ministry of Jesus in terms of a man and his demon possessed boy. When they came down from the mountain a man shouts out from the crowd saying, “Come look at my boy… he’s my only begotten son.” Turns out this father’s son has been overcome with a demon that causes him great harm. The other representatives sent by God had given it their best shot, but to no avail. The demon remained.
Then Jesus says something very peculiar. He says, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you?” Jesus is talking to the man… but he seems to refer to him as if he is a representative of that entire generation. Maybe he was just talking “through” the man… there is a large crowd there and I suppose they all got the message.
Jesus rebuked the spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. Then the text says they were all amazed at the greatness of God. In the midst of this glory being cast on Jesus… he turns them directly back to the cross (Luke 9:44) talking about his death. It’s just Jesus’ way of reminding them that the glory is not to precede the suffering… it’s the suffering first… then the glory.
Then we are told that God put a “child-cap” on what Jesus said… and concealed it from them so that they would not perceive it quite yet.
So a quick recap of these verses as Luke has organized them.
Jesus is thought to be a man of God from times past… one of the men sent to try and heal Israel… but He is not one of them… He’s the Christ.
To prove it… he takes a selfie with Moses and Elijah up on a mountain and talks about the “exodus” that’s now needed to get people out of the slavery of Jerusalem. Then Jesus takes the leading role in the “giving of the law” scene in the remake of The Ten Commandments. They brought Moses back for a cameo as “Best Supporting Actor”. The new law is given. This time the list is a bit shorter. Commandment #1 – listen to Jesus…
The next day Jesus meets a man that we can say represents God the Father… who brings his only son (Israel – Exodus 4:22) to Jesus. All of the other prophets (like Moses and Elijah) couldn’t remove the boy from his spiritual bondage. It’s as if Israel has been bit by the spiritually rabid and is being mauled by the same. There are even times, under the influence of the devil, the boy gets thrown into the fire. In a bold statement about the power of His ministry, Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit, heals Israel like none before him could do, and gives the boy back to his Father.
Luke 9 is a great reminder of the power and ministry of Jesus.