In a sermon earlier this year, I mentioned that Jesus does a lot of praying in Luke’s gospel, which is true, but I got a bit carried away by adding the phrase, “he was always alone” to the end. A brief overview of Luke’s gospel would lead the reader to realize that the mistake was an honest one. Jesus is big on prayer in Luke. In fact, we might argue that Luke is big on prayer because of how he utilizes it in both is gospel and its sequel, Acts. Jesus often “goes off” to pray in Luke, but to say that he *always* goes off by himself is a mistake because in our lesson for Sunday, it is clear that Jesus isn’t alone on the Mount of the Transfiguration.
First of all, he takes his inner-circle with him. Peter, fresh off his proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah, along with James and John are invited to join Jesus on one of his prayer excursions. In a scene reminiscent of the Mount of Olives scene (Luke 22.39ff), the disciple are unable to hang with Jesus prayer for prayer, and fall asleep.
Here is where a second group joins the party as Moses and Elijah appear alongside a fully transfigured and glorified Jesus. There must have been some exchanging of pleasantries, enough for the disciples to rouse from slumber and realize that they were in the presence of greatness, before Jesus, Moses and Elijah begin their conversation about the upcoming exodus upon which Jesus is fixin’ to embark.
Finally, as the dramatic scene draws to a close, a thick cloud shrouded the group and the voice of the Lord God spoke to Elijah and Moses; to Jesus; to Peter, James, and John; and to us; saying, “This is my Son, my chosen. Listen to him!”
A most strange prayer experience to be sure, and one from which the commentators I’ve read glean lots of meaning. What strikes me the most, however, is the notion that Jesus invited a group to join him this time around. It is a departure from the norm, which is something always worth noticing in scripture. Why did Jesus invite company? Why just three? Why these three? Did he know what was going to happen atop the mountain that afternoon?
In the second half of Luke’s gospel, Jesus will “set his face for Jerusalem.” He’ll walk a lonely road that will leave him isolated from his friends and family, Peter, James and John included, as they can only watch from a distance as he dies, rather ingloriously, on the cross. Will Peter, James, and John remember their mountaintop experience? Will they recall the glory that shone so brightly? Will they hear again the conversation about Jesus’ exodus? Will they turn to prayer, alone or in a group? Will they listen for the voice of the Lord? There is much to come as the story of Jesus unfolds in Luke.
Today, however, I’m pondering Jesus’ invitation to pray with him.
*PS, if you noticed the mistake in the title of this blog, good on you.