Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 5 Study # 6
March 14, 2010
32 But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.
33 And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.
34 While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.
35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.
36 And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.
1901 ASV Translation:
32 Now Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: but when they were fully awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.
33 And it came to pass, as they were parting from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah: not knowing what he said.
34 And while he said these things, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.
35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye him.
36 And when the voice came, Jesus was found alone. And they held their peace, and told no man in those days any of the things which they had seen.
- I. Luke's Focus on Peter's "Sleepiness".
- A. A major issue in theological narrative is the fact that there is always a reason for the details of the record. Thus, as in this text, the issue is not "what" is recorded, but "why?". That the disciples were weighed down by sleep was an historically accurate fact, but that does not explain Luke's need to tell us that. There are always gazillions of "facts" that are simply omitted from historical records. In theological narrative, the question, then, is "why are these particular details included?". The answers are to be found in the answer to this question: How do the facts help to develop the thesis? In Luke's record, the major issue is Jesus' promise that some who were His currently living disciples would "see" the Kingdom of God (9:27). There are two parts to this thesis: first, the record must be a visible presentation of the Kingdom; and, second, the record must record a progression in the Plan that included such a presentation. It seems apparent that the major issue is whether, in fact, Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ of God as Peter claimed in 9:20. It also seems apparent that the "sight" of the Kingdom was to both affirm that reality and move it more deeply into the conviction base of those who were priviledged to experience the visual demonstration. Then there is Luke's reason for the presentation: to move his reader into a greater conviction of the reality.
- B. The word "heavy" is used in only six texts in the New Testament and three of them are directly related to the issue of "sleep" by way of "heavy eyes" as a metaphor for the inability to keep the eye lids from closing as a function of sleep. The other three are used where "burdens" are presented as "weights" that tend to keep certain actions from being accomplished. Thus, all six are set in the context of an "objective" that was made far more difficult to accomplish by reason of the "weight" applied.
- 1. The word is in the form of a "passive" participle. This makes the disciples "victims".
- 2. The word's use in respect to "sleepiness" is used in two other texts where the "sleep" leads to a colossal failure (Matthew 26:43 and Mark 14:40). There can be little doubt that Luke intended Theophilus to view the disciples in a "non-think" condition where things can happen and those in the circumstances are pretty much oblivious.
- C. The word "sleep" is used in five texts in the New Testament and all but one are referring to physical sleep (Romans 13:11 uses the term as a metaphor for being spiritually dull).
- D. This is Luke's only reference in his Gospel to "sleep" using this particular term. There are other texts that refer to the same basic physical activity (8:23; 8:52; 22:45-46). Being "unique" makes it all the more necessary that we "understand". First, it makes it highly likely that this was a "night-time" event -- perhaps fairly late. Second, it is clear that neither Peter, nor those with him, were particularly interested in what Jesus was doing. "Interest" is a matter of mental alertness. Third, Luke obviously wanted to explain Peter's "entrance" into the event as a "not-from-the-beginning" reality, but the question is "why?". What difference does it make to anyone that the disciples were "asleep" when these events began to transpire? At least one commentator suggests that it was to explain Peter's "not knowing what he said" comment to Jesus. Luke does not even follow Matthew's and Mark's use of "heaviness" in the Gethsemane event and he changes his terminology in that record altogether so that neither "sleep" nor "heaviness of eyes" is involved.
- 1. If one were to type "sleep" into a search engine for references to "sleep" in the Bible, the engine would reveal 103 biblical texts that refer to sleep. Thirty-nine of those would be in the New Testament. Therefore, any use of a word for "sleep" that does not represent "sleep" in a typical way would be worth pursuing. Luke's word for "sleep" is only used five times in the New Testament and only Luke, of its "users", appeals to its meaning more than one time (Luke 9:32 and Acts 20:9).
- 2. To understand Luke's rationale, we need to see the disciples as he presented them: victims of "heaviness". His declaration is that they were "weighed down by sleep." In two of only five uses of the term in the New Testament, "death" is associated with this "problem" and in one of the other uses, being "spiritually dull" is involved. The only "positive" use of the term is Matthew 1:24 where Joseph is roused from "sleep" to take Mary to be his "wife" in her pregnant condition. But, unless we see some kind of "immediacy" to Joseph's action (unlikely), even here the issue is a man being "clueless" about God's actions until they are specifically and specially revealed to him and he has to "be raised from sleep" in order to get properly involved with them.
- 3. It may be that Luke, knowing of the polytheistic claim of a "god of sleep" who was so potent that he could even put other "gods" to sleep, intended for Theophilus to view the disciples as "under the dominion of other-world powers" so that he would understand why they had so little grasp of the Reality that is Jesus. It is no small thing that men are seriously incapable of true understanding, nor is that incapacity a "small" thing, given how much rests upon man's activities. If Theophilus properly understood, he would also be jolted by the fact that he did not have any greater capacity than did Peter and his fellows. Thus, Luke presents the men as "clueless" and in great need of Jesus' activities on their behalf. This "fits" the issue of the prediction that "some" would "see" the Kingdom of God: the "sight" was a large part of the future fidelity of these men, as Peter clearly stated in 2 Peter 1:18.
- II. Luke's Return to the Issues of "Glory" and "The Other Two Men".
- A. This is a return to the "problems" and "potential" that the demonstration of "glory" produced.
- B. This is a return to the "maleness" thesis of humanity under a relatively "tight" system of real accountability with significant consequences.