When They Were Fully Awake
Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. (Luke 9:32)
I had not noticed this before, but today I realized the implications of this verse. The disciples did not see the glory of Jesus until they were fully awake.
This reminds me of another story that Jesus told about sleepiness.
Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. (Matthew 25:5-7)
This parable of Jesus has long been a source of continuing conviction for me. It describes two groups of people who were so identical that it is nearly impossible to tell them apart. According to the story the only noticeable difference between the foolish and the wise virgins was the fact that the foolish ones didn't bother to plan for any deviations to their plans for joining the wedding festivities. For whatever reason, the wise virgins had chosen to take precautions for a possible delay in plans and had invested in extra backup fuel for their lamps just in case something did happen. But this implied that they took into account that possibly the schedule for the wedding might not go off as scheduled.
What is interesting in this context is the solution for the problem that all of the virgins experienced. The story says that all of them became drowsy and fell asleep. The significant difference between the two groups did not involve some staying awake in spite of their drowsiness but rather the fact that they had chosen to invest during preparation in something vitally important to their participation in the festivities. Yet in the end, the thing that woke all of them up was a call to behold the Bridegroom.
Again, this reminds me of another call to behold that took place at the very beginning of the active ministry of Jesus while He was on this earth.
The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
What does it mean to behold the Lamb of God, or Jesus? Does it just involve looking at Him with our physical eyes if we could only manage to get a chance to see Him in person? Obviously it must mean something very different from that since nearly everyone who has ever lived has not had a chance to see Jesus in person.
Why is it important to behold the Lamb? What is it about Jesus that John calls us to notice? And why did he use the symbol of a Lamb when he referred to Jesus? Was it simply a reference to the fact that Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of an entire sacrificial system involving the killing of Lambs, along with many other animals? If so, he could just as well have said, “Behold the bull of God!” or maybe even “Behold the pigeon of God,” for pigeons were one of the things offered as a sacrifice when people couldn't afford more costly animals.
Just a few verses before the writer John tells us about this where he says something quite relevant to this concept of beholding as it relates to Jesus.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
This takes me back to the very first verse above where the disciples – one of whom was John himself – could not see the glory of Jesus until they were fully awake. I wonder if John pondered this as he chose his words carefully while recalling this event. I sense that John spent much of his later life seeking to become more fully awake to the true glory of Jesus after his entire paradigm of reality had been shattered by this humble construction worker from a town with a bad reputation. Once Jesus came into John's sphere of influence nothing was ever the same again.
Was the glory John referred to here only that he and Peter and James saw brilliant light surrounding Jesus when He was transfigured before them? I don't think so. The light that engulfed Jesus for a few moments on that mountain was only a symptom of the true glory that can result in that physical phenomenon whenever the true glory of God is exposed. In fact I suspect that the whole time Jesus was on this earth God had to constantly veil this natural glory light that would have always been seen by everyone had it not been hidden. In this instance God simply allowed five of His closest friends to enjoy more fully the external symptoms of an inner glory that defined the character of His Son.
What about us? Is it possible or even important that we be able to see the glory of God? And if we are not seeing this glory, even if it does not involve a physical manifestation like what was seen on the mount of transfiguration, is it still important that we see the real glory of the life of God? And if we are not seeing it, what might be preventing us from encountering it?
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
I can't help but notice a direct link here to the idea of an image. Notice the connection between glory and the image of God.
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
In contrast remember that we are told not to worship any kind of image. This makes perfect sense given that we are designed as reflectors of whatever we worship. If we choose to worship anything other than God then our reflection will be grossly inferior to what God intends for us to reveal and destroys the image of God in our hearts.
Humans by design are to be reflectors of God, which includes His glory, whatever that actually is. Now what I am starting to see more clearly in these verses is that drowsiness may have a great deal to do with our problem seeing His glory. There are many passages throughout Scripture that strongly resonate with this idea of glory that we might do well to find and ponder. But more importantly, we must realize our desperate need to be more awake so as to be able to encounter this glory ourselves.
How can we wake up and have the veil removed so as to see more clearly the glory of God? A thought comes to me that one of the veils preventing us from seeing God's glory is our own eyelids. When we are sleepy our eyelids become weak and begin to flutter closed until we are finally so overcome with drowsiness we no longer can see anything. But even during this time of drowsiness while we are desperately trying to pay attention to something we feel is important, we try to keep our eyelids pried open a few more minutes, yet our minds begin shutting down and we can feel like we are in a brain fog so that we can't even process clearly the information coming into our brains.
Have you ever tried to read the Bible when you are groggy? Have you noticed like I have so many times that you can read the same verses over and over repeatedly and still not focus on what might be there right in front of you? I have found myself wandering back over the same paragraph so many times that I finally had to give up because my brain simply was not comprehending what I was reading. I was going through the motions; I was reading words but they were not having any effect on my spirit. At those times I usually have to either give up and sleep, find something more compelling to read to wake me up or simply move to the next activity at hand. Either way I knew I had not received the blessing that I needed and my sleepiness had prevented me from getting the spiritual nourishment and strength I had come to find.
Consider carefully other reasons we experience brain fog. Just feeling physically tired from hard work is by far not the only reason for brain fog drowsiness. The kinds of food we eat, the mental or emotional distractions we allow to fill our imaginations, our habits that prevent us from getting enough rest – any number of things can contribute to pulling a veil over our minds that prevents us from experiencing more fully an encounter with God's glory.
I write this because I personally long to see more fully the real glory of God myself. It is true that over recent years I have increasingly seen more of the real glory of God as He has challenged my assumptions about what He is like and has shown me an incredible beauty in His character. His glory is truly awe-inspiring and is quite different from what I used to assume it meant. I came to realize for instance, that glory has very little to do with some dazzling display of light such as is described in the story of the transfiguration. That is simply an outward natural manifestation that happens when glory is allowed to break through our veils. This is also found in the story of Moses when his face had that same light that so disturbed the Children of Israel when they saw it.
I believe that when people in our time become so filled with the real truth about God and His character and begin to be actual reflectors of the beautiful character of agape, non-violent love as revealed by Jesus, that there is coming a time when like Moses they too will be seen glowing from their face. And just like Moses, this outward manifestation of true glory will not necessarily be welcomed by everyone around them. Glory is not what many people assume, and as a result when true glory appears many will reject it and even resent it. Those who prefer to remain in the dark are easily offended when bright lights suddenly appear interrupting their tranquility.
John actually equates this kind of encounter with the concept of judgment. And what I have found is that the real meaning of judgment is when hidden things are fully exposed. That sounds similar to our need for being fully awake so as to appreciate the glory of God as manifested in Jesus.
This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. (John 3:19-21)
So what is going on here? What is the real reason I cannot see the glory of God more clearly? Is it my own comfortableness with evil that makes me resent the light of God's pure glory when it shows up and compels me to protest, withdraw or even hide from light like a person blissfully enjoying the darkness of the room where they are sleeping? Many of us tend to react with anger and resentment if someone suddenly turns on a bright light while we are sleeping. Likewise if we are quietly resting and enjoying sleep we can resent it if someone suddenly begins shouting or making noise so much that we can't sleep. It can easily make us so irritated that we might get violent and feel like threatening someone physically if they don't leave us alone.
All of the virgins slept in this story of Jesus.
All three disciples were overcome with sleep while Jesus was enjoying a wonderful enlightening experience with a couple old friends who had come to cheer Him up and encourage Him.
All the disciples except Judas were overwhelmed with an intense feeling of drowsiness in the garden of Gethsemane while the true glory of Jesus' character was on display. At that time there was no display of dazzling light, yet during that intense struggle between love and His instinct to survive, God's true glory may have been more clearly seen than at any other point in the history of the universe.
Sadly during that hour, even after repeated attempts by Jesus to waken His closest friends to share sympathy and be there for Him during His most vulnerable moments, not one of them responded to His pleas. As a result they all missed the most incredible revelation of glory where was displayed the very selfless attitude of God willing to lay down His life and rights and privileges for a world of ungrateful and even grouchy sleepers. Yet He did it even though there was no one to comfort or encourage Him during that struggle.
And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede; then His own arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness upheld Him. (Isaiah 59:16)
In the garden agonizing between His passionate love for sinners and His own natural desires to survive, Jesus revealed the essence of God's glory possibly more than at any other time. Yet apparently there was no one to witness it. Evidently like many other things recorded in Scripture, it must have been explained to His disciples later on what happened there in the garden. Maybe Jesus shared this with them during the days following His resurrection when He spent extra time instructing them and preparing them for their mission to take His good news to the rest of the world.
But even after that missed opportunity in the garden, God desired that His glory be made so public that no one would have any excuse to miss it. So the battle continued on with a specious trial and a scandalous execution of an innocent God/man so that the true glory of God would be unmistakably revealed for all the universe to note. From the garden to the cross the real glory of God, without the light-show, was put on display so that its internal qualities could be more distinctly observed. The unconditional, irrepressible love and forgiveness of a God willing to endure any amount of shame, torture, humiliation and pain is a demonstration of the true glory that results in enlightening our minds and hearts about the truth of what God is like deep inside. This glory is what exposes all the dark lies that Satan has circulated about God and continues to circulate even after this demonstration of the truth as it is in Jesus.
Moses once asked God to show him His glory. God responded that it was too dangerous to expose Moses to His full glory but He would show him as much as he could handle.
Then Moses said, "I pray You, show me Your glory!" And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion." But He said, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!" (Exodus 33:18-20)
What Moses received in answer to his request was a carefully limited encounter with some physical aspects of God, but primarily it was a verbal description of what constitutes God's glory – a description of God's true character. This is where the real significance of the glory of God is centered, not in outward dazzling displays of power or light shows but in an inward purity of selfless, other-centered love that describes who God is and how He acts and feels and operates all the time.
Moses did not see very much of God's glory because what he got were simply descriptions of it. However he also saw demonstrations of it in how God related to him and the Israelites during all their malfunctions and rebellions. Because Moses like everyone else during those times were coming out of a time of deep darkness of mistrust and ignorance of God's true character, the only way for God's true glory to be seen was for God Himself to show up and demonstrate what glory is really about. That is why Jesus came to reveal the true glory of God in person. And this is what the New Testament writers marveled over and is what turned the world upside down for a time, that is until the enemy obscured that glory once again by plunging our world into more lies about the what God is really like.
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:10-12)
The glory of God is really the love of God. Just as the law is a transcript of the character of God, love is the exhibition of that law played out in life and relationships (Romans 13:8). Jesus came to reveal the real truth about God's character that has been obscured by the myriads of lies and insinuations about Him that have blinded us and kept us in a stupor of ignorance and sleep.
Paul tells us that now it is time to wake up. Today it is time to shake off our grogginess and ignorance and any willingness to tolerate lies about God in our hearts or our teachings. Now is the time to allow God's Spirit to dwell in us and make us accurate reflectors of His likeness, His beauty and His self-sacrificing love so as to salvage as many as possible to join us in relishing His goodness.
As we allow our own hearts to be ravished by the incredible, unbelievable, irrepressible love the Father has for us, our fears will be neutralized and our hearts will become impassioned with the same kind of fire that motivated the heart of Jesus as He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.
Why did He do this? He came to destroy all the works of the devil, the one who steals, kills and destroys all that God has provided for us. The glory of God is to restore us to be reflectors of His love, His life, His righteousness and make us co-rulers with Him at the very center of power in the universe.
Just thinking about these things can sometimes overwhelm us. But as we acclimate our eyes to the increasing light of God's true glory we will be able to see more clearly and appreciate even more light if we are willing to endure the pain of being open to the increasing intensity of that light. God has much, much more to share with us and He longs to have us open ourselves and be more available so He can demonstrate His glory once again in humanity, unveiled for all the universe to see.
We are spectacles to angels and to men (1 Cor. 4:9). The whole universe is watching with intense interest as the final chapters of the story are being played out. God's character of pure love is the core issue at the center of dispute and we are called to be His character witnesses. Will we begin to wake up to appreciate and enjoy the true beauty of His love and become channels of His graciousness to others? Will we step up to the call to speak well about God instead of continuing to circulate false ideas about Him that only perpetuate the war?
The end of all things in this war is not an arbitrarily fixed point in time determined by God. Rather He awaits our participation to bring to a final resolution this war over God's reputation. When we finally take seriously God's invitation to be transformed through beholding His character as that of an innocent, lovable lamb instead of like an intimidating beast relying on threats, intimidation and fear to control others, then the end can finally come and sin can at last be defeated.
I am sensing that God wants to do much more than simply verbalize His glory or even just show us physical aspects of His glory. It is vital that we come to know and experience the true glory of God's character before we can progress any further. Yet God wants to take us much further to demonstrate His glory once again through human agents so that all the lies of the enemy can be exposed in the light of this fresh revelation of the true glory of God now seen in His sons and daughters.
How do we respond to His invitation?
Now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11)