This chapter can be broken up into three parts: vv. 1-27 is focused on discipleship; vv. 28-50 is about transformation and healing and conversion; vv. 51-62 is about the consequences of discipleship and the transformation and healing and conversion that it brings about. The sayings of Jesus in these verses could strike us as being extremely difficult to live up to. For Jesus, following him as a disciple is an all or nothing decision that requires a nearly daily recommitment to Him.
This chapter contains the first of two miracles that show Jesus multiplying loaves and fishes (vv. 10-17). We know from Matthew’s Gospel of the Eucharistic foreshadowing of this passage as well as the use of numbers to harken back to the Old Testament prefiguring of the Eucharist.
For instance, the use of the number 12. After feeding the multitude, the apostles collect 12 baskets full of leftovers. We remember the number of Jacob’s sons who would lead the 12 tribes of Israel: 12. We remember the number of men that Jesus chose to be his Apostles: 12. We remember the use of numerology in Hebrew culture: 3 is a number of perfection; while 4 is a number representing the directional points on a compass. Multiply those two numbers: 12. The apostles represent a universal and nearly perfect pronunciation of the Gospel following Jesus’s death and Ascension.
We also have Peter’s confession of faith which we saw back in Mark’s Gospel. Luke’s recounting of this episode is slightly different than Mark’s account. Nevertheless, the point is the same: Peter has had an Epiphany; soon to be followed by a theophany.
Luke’s Gospel also contains the Transfiguration (vv. 28-36): this is a Theophany. A theophany is a revelation of God into the normal course of nature. The Trinity is revealed here: we have the Son in the person of Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit in the cloud (a common image for the Holy Spirit), and we have the presence of the Father manifested in the Voice from the cloud. In this total revelation of God and sort of final commissioning of Jesus, we then see in vv. 31-62, the proximate journeying of Jesus to his Passion in Jerusalem.
But not before he goes back into healing mode by healing a boy with a demon (vv. 37-43) and another exorcism near the end of the chapter.
Finally, Jesus makes begins to make his way to Jerusalem. The interaction with the Samaritans at the end of the chapter is contrasted with the messages of discipleship that Jesus offered earlier in the chapter. There are two ways for Jesus: you’re either a follower (and this means being behind him and letting him do in front of us), or you’re not. And as Jesus makes abundantly clear to his apostles, we definitely don’t want to be in front of him!
Point for Prayer
“Dear Christ of glory, you enlightened Peter, James and John in your Transfiguration. The experience transformed them. In the cloud of ‘unknowing’, they received insight into the mystery of your love. Bring me to that kind of intimacy that draws me out of my darkness into your enabling light. Amen” (96).