Wake up! l Luke 9:28-36 l Chapel Hill Church Gig Harbor
My name is Ellis and I am one of the pastors here at Chapel Hill. Welcome to this worship service, and greetings to those of you who are joining us online. We’re continuing our journey through Luke’s gospel—his biographical account of the life of Jesus. Last week we saw one of Jesus’ closest followers Peter come to a revelation that Jesus was God’s chosen king for his people. This week, Peter, and two brothers, James and John, and going to come to a revelation of Jesus that surpasses even that.
Several months ago, we got a puppy. Her name is Windsor and she is a mini goldendoodle. The kids love her and she’s been a great addition to our family. Sadly, even now that she is six months old, she still doesn’t sleep through the night. So, I am constantly awoken early in the morning by the sound of her barking, letting me know that she needs to go outside. This week I’ve had 4am and 5am wake up calls. I’m at the point where I hear the bark and I don’t know if I’m dreaming or not. I’m kind of drifting in and out of sleep. You know the feeling?
In today’s passage from Jesus’ life, we are going to see three of Jesus’ closest friends awoken from their slumber, not by a barking puppy, but by something magnificent and awesome—the glory of God—and I hope that this message will encourage and challenge us to awaken to God’s glory and that he might use us to awaken our nation to his glory. We pick up things where we left off last week in Luke 9:28-31:
“Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Luke 9:28–31
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
There is a TV show called Undercover Boss, where the CEO of a large corporation disguises themselves and goes undercover to work alongside one of their lowest level employees. And the most fascinating part of every episode is that moment when the CEO reveals their true identity to the employees. This is that moment for Jesus and his three friends, Peter, James and John. This is the moment when Jesus, who to this point has been undercover, reveals his true identity to his three closest followers.
Jesus, begins by inviting his three closest followers up on a mountain top to pray. Likely this was Mt Hermon, which today sits on the border between Syria and Lebanon, and is a strenuous day hike, climbing to over 9000ft of elevation. Sadly, as we’ll read in a moment, all that hiking caused the three disciples to dose off during the prayer time that Jesus was leading at the summit. And while the disciples were dozing, something remarkable began to take place.
As they were praying, Jesus’ face began to change, and his clothing became dazzling white. Now, the original Greek, exastraptōn, literally means it was whiter even than clothes washed with OxiClean White Revive Laundry Whitener. Actually, I’m lying. It doesn’t mean that. But it does mean that his clothes were gleaming like lightning—dazzlingly bright. Jesus was, what we call, transfigured, that is, he was transformed into something more glorious than his present state. What was really going on here was that Undercover Boss moment—Jesus’ true identity was being revealed. Jesus was no mere human; he was God in human flesh.
But Jesus wasn’t alone. Alongside him were two men, who also appeared in glory. These two men represented all the prophetic tradition that had come before Jesus. All the prophecies that had been spoken, declaring that one day God would come to his people and usher in an unprecedented new era of his rule and reign. These two men were Moses and Elijah, two of Israel’s greatest prophets from the past. Moses who led God’s people out of slavery in what is called the Exodus, and met with God face to face on another mountain, receiving the Law of God and passing it on to God’s people. And Elijah, who also met with God on a mountain, and performed numerous miracles before finally ascending to heaven in a fiery chariot.
And Luke records that these three men were having a conversation about Jesus’ departure. But in truth, as the footnote in the ESV points out, the word for departure is actually exodus. The Exodus, as I just mentioned, was the moment when God led his people out of slavery in Egypt, through ten plagues on the Egyptians, parting the Red Sea, and then, once the Israelites had crossed over, pulling the waters back down upon the Egyptians who were chasing them. This was the most foundational moment in the people of God’s redemption and formation. Yet these three men were not talking about that exodus, but Jesus’ exodus, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.