Sunday

07 February 2016

“Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw Jesus’ glory…” (v. 32)

Psalm: Psalm 99


Background

The question of who Jesus is was raised by Herod (Luke 9:9) and then by Jesus himself (Luke 9:18). Peter seemed to have recognised that Jesus was the Messiah (Luke 9:20) but not understood what sort of Messiah. This is something we all have to work on.

On a mountain top the closest disciples of Jesus - Peter, James and John - saw Jesus' glory while he was praying. Glory is a word associated with the beauty, goodness and power of God.In this tremendous, shared experience the disciples perceived the spiritual glory of God shining through Jesus as he prayed. Present also were the ancestral important prophets Moses and Elijah. Jesus' face and person were 'transfigured' or changed, his clothes became dazzling white.

The way the story is told would have reminded the first listeners of the story of Moses, when he went up a mountain, met God, and received the tablets of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19-20). The glory of God was thought to be too amazing for ordinary mortals to perceive and so the presence of God was often shown hidden in cloud. It is out of the cloud that God spoke to Moses (Exodus 19:9) and here to Peter, James and John (verse 35).

The disciples are described as being "weighed down with sleep", but still staying awake. This may be because they were in deep, contemplative prayer, which can induce a trance-like state, but one where part of your mind is very alert. In this prayerful state they perceived the deepest truth of Jesus' identity, his reflection of the very glory of God.

Like us, when something has been shown to us in prayer, Peter has the instinct to try to try to capture the moment. He asked Jesus if they should make dwellings for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Church buildings can described as dwellings erected in places where the glory of God has been glimpsed. But the answer that comes from God is to listen to Jesus, God's son. It perhaps suggests that discipleship is not about hoarding spiritual experience, like a trophy. Rather spiritual experience is to be spent in a live sense of relationship with the Son, learning to listen and be obedient to Jesus' voice.


To Ponder

  • When have you had a sense of the glory of God and what have you done with the experience?
  • Are there particular places where you especially experience God's glory? And what is it about the place that makes it so special?
  • What difference do you think the recognition that Jesus was showing God's glory made to the disciples in the short, medium and long term? What difference does it make to you?


Bible notes author: 
The Revd Jenny Ellis

  • Sign up for e-newslettersKeep in touch with what interests you