28 Now about eight days after these sayings, (Jesus) took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Luke 9:28-32
Peter, James, and John, the disciples closest to Jesus, experience the Sacred Glory of God, the Divine Presence while praying on the mountain. They see Jesus “transfigured,” glorified with a dazzling appearance, talking to Moses and Elijah, the fathers of their faith who represent the Law and Prophets. They overheard confusing conversation about suffering and death and Jesus leaving. Overcome with the long day of physical and spiritual intensity, the disciples can’t keep their eyes open and sleep.
Perhaps after some rest and the transforming power of glory, Peter, John, and James become “fully awake” and witness the beauty and radiance of the Divine Jesus. They are enveloped in the cloud of God’s presence and hear his personal invitation: “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him!” (Luke 9:35)
Discipleship is a life-long process of following, listening, and obeying Jesus as our teacher and Lord. Before taking them to the mountain, Jesus first clarifies the disciples’ understanding by asking: “Who do you say I am?” Of course, it was Peter who answered, “The Christ of God.” (9:20) With this declaration, Peter and the disciples now have boundaries and security as learners and followers of Jesus: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (9:23)
They have learned the basic tenants of faith – the rules, processes, and doctrine that undergird the disciple’s behavior and beliefs. Now this inner circle of leaders is ready to go with Jesus beyond the daily path to a place of mystery, imagination, and transformation. It is a discipleship unbound and un-contained by words and plans. God opens their sleepy eyes to glimpse his exalted glory and invites them to “fully awake discipleship.” They see what it might mean to deny self, to clear space within to make room for Divine Presence and transformation. Jesus told them that he will come in his glory and now they have seen it for themselves, eyes wide open.
Practice: Become Awake with Gospel Contemplation. Read Luke 9:18-36 using your imagination as if you were present in the story. First, set aside some time and space to read, and re-read until you know the details. Then close your eyes and walk onto the set of the story. You can be a disciple or someone in the crowd. Feel the emotions, use your senses, see the details, ask questions.
Now imagine Jesus looking at you and asking, “Who do you say that I am?” Then hear his challenge, “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” What response comes up in your heart? Finally imagine yourself going on a hike with Jesus and the others. Picture yourself on the mountain, maybe confused, dazzled, overwhelmed and very sleepy. Suddenly you become fully awake and standing in a cloud you hear, “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him!” Suddenly it all is gone you find Jesus alone. What do you say to him?
Reflection: What does it mean for you to be a fully awake disciple? What glimpses of Jesus’ glory, his presence and activity have you seen?
In what ways have you been “heavy with sleep” spiritually? What would it take to “wake up?” What did you hear God saying to you as you entered this story?