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Luke 9:18-43 | 2nd Sunday of Lent
This week’s reading is full. The identity of Jesus is revealed. Discipleship is explained. Then the disciples experience his messianic identity and struggle to follow him. Why is it that faith in Christ can seem to easy and simple to understand at times, and yet so challenging to do and live?
Theological Themes, Interesting Points & Inter-textual links.
This story is also found in Mark 8 with a few editorial changes and a different setting. While Mark has Peter’s confession of faith happen in a very public context, Luke retells the story in a private one. How is it that Peter can be so spot on and lost at the same time? He’s the first to confess Jesus as Messiah, and yet denies him to save his own skin (Luke 22:31-34 & 54-62)? After tears and another conversion in Luke 22: 32 & 66 he not only reclaims his faith but becomes the porte-parole or leader of the group of twelve disciples. He goes from the top of the heap, to the bottom, and then differently back to the top.
Jesus and John the Baptist must have been similar for it seems that some folks think that Jesus is John come back to life after being killed by King Herod. Others think he’s Elijah who was to return to prepare the way for the Messiah according to scripture. So why does Jesus ask them to not say anything, when they – in particular Peter – get it right?
Jesus is saying that to believe is not just simple to hold that something is true, it’s a movement in the direction of the One that represents God. To deny oneself isn’t a question of self-hate or deprivation. Jesus doesn’t demand that we suffer. Rather he sees in advance that true love of God and neighbor can’t happen without some sort of self sacrifice, solidarity and mutual suffering. True love goes the distance, not just through the pretty and easy parts of life. God doesn’t want us to die, not trying to save ourselves. Rather Jesus is warning that we’re already lost – or dead – if we try to save ourselves, pretending that we have the power to do so, and that we alone are the justification for seeing ourselves as so important. Jesus is saying that as human beings we miss the mark, go astray from our raison d’être if we want to save our life for our own well-being, profit or gain. Life doesn’t belong to us. Life is to be lived loving and living for others.
The transfiguration is the name for this story. It is similar to transformation, but it’s a temporary sort of change, an awakening, a revelation, a glimpse of what truly is. What is Jesus truly then in this encounter? Why do you think Moses (who represents the Law) and Elijah (the great prophet) are present? Why does Peter want to build these shelters, or little huts? Is this happening for Jesus or for the disciples?
Jesus returns from this transfiguration “mini-retreat” to a crowd and the disciples failure. The radical love of a father for his child, who risks everything for the life of his son, speaks out from this swirling faceless crowd. Why then, and who, does Jesus criticize or seem to condemn in verse 41? The father? The disciples? The whole crowd? Everyone, and us by extension as the readers of this text? How does this healing encounter confirm what Jesus has said about following him? How does it confirm what the disciples saw on the mountain? How does it confirm what Peter confessed to be true?
Questions for wondering and exploring:
1. What troubles you and/or encourages you in these texts? Why? How does it contain good news for us?
2. How does this text touch you? How are we tempted to forget who we are and to whom we belong ?
3. How do you struggle to follow Jesus in an authentic way? What’s harder for you in belief…to hold certain things to be true, or to deny yourself to love your neighbor and God?
4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than courageously and actively doing God’s will.” How do you react to that? How does that relate to today’s text?