Luke 9:28-36 (Contemporary English Version)
About eight days later Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up on a mountain to pray. While he was praying, his face changed, and his clothes became shining white. Suddenly Moses and Elijah were there speaking with him. They appeared in heavenly glory and talked about all that Jesus’ death in Jerusalem would mean.
Peter and the other two disciples had been sound asleep. All at once they woke up and saw how glorious Jesus was. They also saw the two men who were with him.
Moses and Elijah were about to leave, when Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here! Let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But Peter did not know what he was talking about.
While Peter was still speaking, a shadow from a cloud passed over them, and they were frightened as the cloud covered them. 35 From the cloud a voice spoke, “This is my chosen Son. Listen to what he says!”
After the voice had spoken, Peter, John, and James saw only Jesus. For some time they kept quiet and did not say anything about what they had seen.
Did you see it? This inner circle, this trusted group of disciples missed an opportunity. When Jesus invited them to come and pray up on the mountain, they fell asleep.
THEY FELL ASLEEP!!! (Pardon me while I laugh at myself.)
It would not be the only time they would fall asleep when Jesus asked them to pray with him. But think about what they missed…
By sleeping, they didn’t see the change in Jesus from his everyday earthly appearance to a transfigured one.
By sleeping, they missed out on the conversation — one that centered around the meaning of Jesus’ death in Jerusalem. They didn’t grasp the significance of Moses and Elijah being with Jesus.
In waking, they were disoriented. They had an incomplete understanding of what just went down. Then Peter, bless him, tried to pull the same stunt I would – he tried to cover the fact that he had been asleep. (Quick! Think of something!) And Luke records that Peter “did not know what he was talking about.”
How often do I miss the message? How often do I try and cover for my lack of diligence or ignorance? And why do I think that I have to reduce spirituality to a competition, a sort of “spiritual contact sport” where there are winners and losers, and no one wants to be a loser?
When my kids were very young, I found it hard to pray. Heck, I found it hard to do anything that required stringing two or three linear thoughts together. I managed to keep everyone fed and clothed, but in the early days of “baby haze” I found myself nodding off, time and time again, when I sat down to pray and read my Bible.
It was embarrassing. It seemed that every Christian woman I met had amazing “quiet times” and shared their insightful revelations during Bible study. I felt it to be an accomplishment to be dressed with matching socks. So I pretended. And the great cover-up began. The guilt was high, you see. It was a conspiracy, I thought. How could it be otherwise? There were sermon illustrations, vignettes, and story after story of amazing women of God, who got up before the chickens and prayed and had their quiet times before the rest of the household. And then they raised godly children who set the Church ablaze, becoming missionaries, planting megachurches, and so on. I just had to get up early and pray! What godly mom didn’t want to do that?
So I would try again. Set my alarm. Creep downstairs to a chair, wrap up in a blanket… and fall asleep with a Bible in my lap. After a few days of this routine, I would shrug, reset my alarm for a saner time, and sleep. I learned to talk to God and pray as I worked, played, cleaned and cooked. I carved out little moments here and there. But I felt guilty. So I performed my spiritual cover-up like it was some great performance art.
It took several years (I’m a slow learner) to figure out that I am not a morning person. The time of day that I read my Bible really did not matter. The time WITH GOD did.
Being alert to God’s word.
Being tender to hear God’s heart.
Being aware of God’s work around me.
Being ready to care for the needs and hurts of those I met.
Like Peter, I miss the mark all the time. I want to make a “holy place” or find some kind of “marker” to show that I get the significance of my time with God — but that is not the point. I don’t think God wants any more “places” built. I do think God wants me to take the transforming power of God and DO something with it.
The lesson of the Transfiguration is one of awareness, being prepared for what God might do next. There’s a sense of “God in the wings,” with the Spirit sending cues to my ClearCom. There’s foreshadowing — do I see it? Do I get it?
It really didn’t matter WHEN I stopped to listen. I just needed to do it with my full heart and mind engaged.
It’s not easy. Some days, in fact, it is impossible. I’ll miss out on many other Transfiguring moments in my life, I’m sure. But instead of trying to cover up, I’ll try to regroup, listen harder, and seek to hear what God has in mind.
And then go do something with what I hear.