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The Second Sunday of Lent, Year C

The Transfiguration 

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A third element of the transfiguration that’s distinctive of Luke (and this one’s the one that’s most fascinating to me) is that when Moses and Eli’jah appear to him, it actually tells us what they were talking about. Luke alone does this. It says that they were speaking of his departure which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Now the RSV here has the word “departure” as a translation. I like the New American Bible’s translation better because it’s more accurate. The New American Bible says “of his exodus” that he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. And that’s a good translation because the Greek word is actually exodos, and it means departure (or journey), but the echo of the exodus in the book of Exodus is much clearer when you just translate it (or transliterate it) in a literal fashion. What does that mean though? What is Jesus’ exodus that he’s going to accomplish at Jerusalem and why was it so important that Moses and Eli’jah are discussing that exodus with him? I think the answer here is simple but it’s really significant. Namely, that in the Old Testament, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, over and over again, depict the future age of salvation as a new exodus. That when God comes in the future he’s going to save his people in ways that are similar to the way he saved them in the past at the exodus at the time of Moses. So, it’s going to be a new exodus and Jesus (in Luke 9) is being revealed as the one who’s going to inaugurate that new exodus and accomplish it in Jerusalem.

Now, to be very specific here, it’s really crucial to recognize that the new exodus is both similar to the old and different from the old. If you think about it this way, both of them are similar in the sense that they involve a journey that has a beginning and an end, and it’s a journey that is meant to set the people of God free and bring them home to the promised land. However, they’re different in their locations and in their destinies. The old exodus (think about it) began in Egypt and then ended in Jerusalem in the sense that the Israelites, the twelve tribes, were set free from slavery to pharaoh, they journeyed though the wilderness for forty years, and then they ended up in the promised land, fought the enemies of Israel (the Canaanites), and then finally, built the city of Jerusalem and the temple at the time of David (that’s kind of like the apex or completion of the exodus journey). You can see this in Exodus 15 where it talks about how God is going to bring a sanctuary that the people are going to worship him in. The old exodus begins in Egypt, ends in Jerusalem, whereas Jesus’ exodus (this is important), it begins in Jerusalem and where does it end? Not in the earthly promised land, but in the heavenly promised land. And you can see this in the last line of Luke. How does Luke’s gospel end? It ends not just with Jesus being raised from the dead, but ascending into heaven. His departure is going to be his passion, death, resurrection and ascension. His exodus is his passion, death, resurrection and ascension into the heavenly Promised Land. So he reveals that the ultimate destination of the exodus he wishes to accomplish is the heavenly, and not the earthly land of Canaan. It’s the transcendent reality. It’s a greater exodus than the first exodus, but the only way to that is through the cross; through his passion and his death. So you can see, that although the transfiguration has all these elements of glory, it also is pointing us already (already in the 2nd week of Lent), we are looking ahead to the cross and the resurrection, and even the ascension...

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