Summary: The Greek gives one license to drive this sermon in just about any Scriptural direction one's heart desires. It is all there -- Baptism, end times, resurrection, even the Exodus. The inclusion of Elijah and Moses already suggested this, but the Greek allows for all sorts of connections!
Key words that are unique to Luke's account:
οκτω ("eight"; 9:28) In the early church, the 8th day was significant because it was the day on which the resurrection and hence all Christian worship, was celebrated. In modern times, we often think we worship on the 7th day, but really, we worship on the 8th day! That the transfiguration happened on the 8th day. In this way, Luke points us toward the resurrection. A possible sermon: Our baptismal charism is the ability to see resurrection where others see death!?
προσευχομαι ("pray"; 9:28) Jesus prays quite a bit in Luke's Gospel, far more than in the other gospels. (In fact, although he does pray in John's Gospel, the word is never used!) In fact, in Luke's Gospel, Jesus is praying as the heavens are opened in his baptism. Jesus prays other times too, but these are unique to Luke's Gospel. This suggests that for Luke, there is a connection between prayer, baptism and the gates of heaven being opened for us.
εξαστραπτω ("shone brightly"; 9:29) The Greek for "brilliant" (his coat) has tucked within it the word "astra" like "astronomy." Jesus is bright like the stars. Interestingly, the only other place this word appears in the whole Bible is Ezekial and Daniel, perhaps a reminder that transfiguration has an eschatological bent -- it is the future breaking in and not simply the past catching up!
What is worth noting is that the word transformation (μεταμορφοω) is not used in Luke's Gospel (as opposed to Matthew and Mark. Jesus face just became "other" (ετερον, literally "hetero.")
εξοδος ("departure"; 9:31) The word for "departure" here is literally "exodus." Moses is talking with Jesus about Jesus' exodus. A couple of points here:
- The term exodus is not accidental. There are a number of other allusions to the original exodus:
They go up a mountain to encounter God (ορος 28); God's glory (δοξη 31) appears in a cloud (νεφελη 34) through which a voice appears; the humans seek to build a tent/tabernacle (σκηνας 33) to worship him.
- Jesus has just been preaching about his death and resurrection; so quickly turning to this event gives us permission to read the paschal mystery in light of the exodus!
- Is the Christian exodus more of a social/political exodus (leaving behind oppressive governmental systems) or is a spiritual exodus (away from the power of death and sin). Both? Regardless, it seems fair to understand Jesus mission within the context of the second book of the Bible, one of liberation.
- Jerusalem is the goal of this exodus. Jesus will soon set his face toward there (9:53); he will be crucified, resurrected and ultimately glorified there. Why is this so important to Luke?
Note: For those hungry for some more morsels, I also have a previous post on this text http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2010/02/luke-928-36.html