Eight days after Jesus said this, He took Peter, John and James with Him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became bright as a flash of lightning…Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him.” Luke 9:28,29,32.
Peter, James, and John missed some of Jesus’ most magnificent moments because they were…asleep! Jesus was praying and was so powerfully enveloped in the glory of heaven that it became visible on earth. In the meantime the disciples were sleeping and woke up talking nonsense. They were just in time to catch a glimpse of Moses and Elijah near the tail end of their conversation with Jesus, but what did it mean to them? Nothing – nothing more than an event to be commemorated with three shrines.
If the three disciples had been more alert and praying, they would have been far more prepared for the next significant event, when Jesus prayed in a garden. It was all about His exodus, and they were a part of it whether they liked it or not. How different their reaction would have been had they followed their rabbi’s example and prayed instead of being spectators to His passion.
Yes, they had confessed, through the mouth of Peter, their opinion that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, but the content of that confession had yet to be shaped into an unshakeable conviction by recognising and acknowledging Him in the power of His death and resurrection. At this moment His identity was still hazy enough for Him to be placed next to Moses and Elijah, at least in Peter’s mind. He was still very much a Jew at heart, wanting to memorialise great revelations with stones rather than working them into the fabric of his life. What good would three shrines on top of a mountain do when he had to live in the valley of everyday life? Far more valuable would be to be convinced that Jesus is the Son of God, and to live out of that awareness in the ups and downs of life.
How do we live alert enough to discern great revelations when they come to us? So much of our learning comes through falling into traps and then recognising what they were on hindsight. Jesus’ counsel was “Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation.” Jesus’ response to temptation was submission – “Not my will but yours be done.” Our enemy is not so much the devil as ourselves, our will, our desires warring against the will of our Father. Jesus learned submission from the things that He suffered.
Falling asleep was not the solution when tests come our way. What great revelations of Jesus’ glory we miss when we sleep instead of being alert to see His glory in our times of testing.