DAILY READING: Luke 9:28 – 36

FOCUS PASSAGE: 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 9:32)

Eastern Orthodox Christians value this story of Jesus’ transfiguration, noting its central place in the gospel narratives. You can make the case that the first half of Jesus’ ministry was spent headed toward this mountain, where he “went up” with Peter, John, and James. When he came down the mountain, he began the deliberate move toward Jerusalem, betrayal, trial, and crucifixion.

My own spirituality has been shaped by an understanding of the story that comes from the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

That interpretation of the transfiguration says that the real miracle in the story is not that Jesus’ appearance changed and that his clothes became bright; rather, the real miracle in this story is that the disciples “became fully awake” and saw Jesus – finally! – as he really was. For a moment, their eyes were opened to see him as he was all the time.

“When they became fully awake, they saw his glory.” When the disciples woke up, they didn’t see Jesus as they had seen him previously. They saw Jesus’ glory, humanity, divinity, and essence.

In other words, the disciples finally glimpsed the inner light that illumined his life 24/7. Previously, though, they had missed it. They had slept through it.

The “sleep” of the disciples, therefore, becomes a metaphor for spiritual drowsiness. It speaks to our inattentiveness, the way we sleep-walk through life, dull and unaware of the things around us and within us that are most real.

Disciples, the very inner circle of Jesus, could live and walk and eat with Jesus, giving him their very lives, and after all those months and years still not notice what was most real about him.

According to the story, Orthodox Christians claim, the spiritual life is about waking up, about seeing what is real, seeing what is at the heart of life, seeing to the inner essence of things, people, and events. We see Jesus in ourselves, in others, and in the created world. We see Jesus “as he is.”

We are all asleep to some degree. The Gospel invites us to wake up, so that the blind see, the lame walk, the lost are found, and the wounded are healed.

We are invited to a deeper level of spiritual awareness, a God-consciousness that transforms our lives and in the process transforms the world.

The Lent Weekly Devotional series is written by Jerry Webber, Community Pastor, The Center for Christian Spirituality/Contemplative Worship.