None of the external opinions about Jesus’ identity capture the truth that Jesus is the Messiah who must suffer. Luke extends this insight to the followers of Jesus by insisting that the disciple must be ready to take up the cross daily. Not only does God affirm Jesus’ sonship at the Transfiguration, but Moses and Elijah also converse with Jesus about his coming departure from the world at Jerusalem. Luke has omitted Markan material critical of the disciples from the Passion prediction, the Transfiguration and the healing of an epileptic boy. In doing so, Luke brings the dramatic theophany of the Transfiguration in closer proximity with the predictions of the passion. God prevents the disciples from understanding what Jesus has said to them. Their arguments over who is greater show that they are not ready to follow Jesus in suffering.
Luke 9:32 The disciples fell asleep during the Transfiguration. This sleep has links to several events: Jesus took the same three disciples to ‘wake up’ Jairus’ daughter; Stephan fell asleep at his martyrdom and saw a heavenly vision. The disciples fell asleep when Jesus was sweating blood in the garden of Gethsemane Stephan’s image can be applied to all Christians: “Awake, O Sleeper,/ and arise from the dead,/ and Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:14). Peter is very content to be in the presence of Moses, Elijah and Jesus, but he’s also a little confused. He wants to build a tent for each of them; he is putting them all on the same level–he’s not rational. Gadenz says that he is “perhaps like Moses, who set up the tent of meeting where God’s glory came to dwell.” A cloud came, casting a shadow over them; it clearly alludes to Moses, recalling the cloud over the tent of meeting. But Jesus does not need a tent made by Peter; he IS the tent. His glorified body is now the living tent of meeting, the new temple where God dwells with his presence. The overshadowing cloud is here a sign of the Holy Spirit, like the dove at Jesus’ baptism. Also, the Church is the Body of Christ; it is a huge billion member organization; it is international; it is growing; it exists in China in two forms.
Luke 9:35 As at the baptism, the voice of God the Father is heard, completing the manifestation of the Trinity. It echoes the second psalm: this is my chosen Son, a truth now revealed to the three apostles. The voice says: “listen to him,” completing the link between Jesus and Moses, who hears God say: “That is the one to whom you shall listen” (Deuteronomy 18:15).
Luke 9:37-40 The disciples need for further growth and training is emphasized in four related incidents, which highlight their present inability to fulfill their mission and their incomprehension of Jesus’ mission. Jesus comes back down the mountain and encounters a man, who, like the widow of Nain and Jairus, has only one child, and he has a demon causing him to have seizures. The disciples weren’t able to expel the demon, which annoyed Jesus, who expelled it easily. Jesus’ response echoes Moses’ response to the Israelites in the wilderness: “O faithless and perverse generation!” The disciples need to keep growing in faith in order to use the power Jesus gave them.
Luke 9:43-44 Unlike in Matthew and Mark the next incident is recounted without mentioning any change in location, thus stressing the connection between events. Jesus makes his second passion prediction to his disciples. Jesus tells them to “pay attention” to his words: “The Son of Man will be handed over to men.” This prediction uses the language of an important OT text for understanding Jesus’ sufferings: “on account of their sins he was handed over” (Isaiah 53:12). Also in 53:12 we find: “He was counted among the wicked.” Almost all of Chapter 53 of Isaiah is a prediction of Jesus and his destiny.
Luke 9:45-48 The disciples did not understand Jesus’ second prediction of his passion and they weren’t meant to understand. They were weak, and the meaning of the prediction was hidden from them. Instead, the disciples argue over who is greatest. They have ignored the lessons of the Magnificat and the Beatitudes, in which servants are kings and kings are servants. The aristocracy in England had a tradition in which the lord and lady of the manor would become the servants and their servants would become the lord, lady and all the members of the court; I suppose it was a day of fun for the servants, at least. Also, on Holy Thursday, the priest/celebrant washes the feet of some of the people who are seated around the altar. He is imitating Jesus because Jesus did the same thing at the Last Supper. But I digress. Jesus corrects the disciples by seating a child among them and saying: “The one who receives such lowly and weak members of society receives me and the Father who sent me.” Moreover, becoming the least through service to others is the true indicator of who is greater. These truths will sink in only on the day the Holy Spirit descends on them, enlightening not only Christians but Gentiles as well. For a day the people will truly experience the kingdom of heaven.