From Glory to Anguish: Jesus on Two Mountains in Luke’s Gospel 

 An Easter Meditation by Ursula Weekes

Agony in the Garden

The Transfiguration is a key moment in Jesus’ ministry, when his appearance changed to show how he looks in heaven, “the appearance of his face changed and became as bright as a flash of lightening” (Luke 9:29).  Reading Luke’s account, I was struck by an unusual detail that he alone of the gospel writers include, “Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory” (9:32). Why were they sleepy? And why does Luke, the attentive historian, bother to include this detail? 

In Luke 9, Jesus had taken Peter, James and John with him up the mountain so that they would be eye-witnesses of his glory. Had the climb up the mountain been too strenuous? Were the disciples exhausted from the Feeding of the Five Thousand, which preceded the Transfiguration? Or was this the kind of sleep that comes from an overwhelming experience? Reading Luke carefully it seems the sleep had only come upon them when Jesus began to be transfigured. Sleep is well-attested as one kind of response to stress or to a dramatic experience. Later in Luke’s gospel, the disciples were unable to stay awake on another occasion. It was the night of Jesus arrest, as he asked them to watch and pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane. This time, Luke explicitly tells us that their sleepiness was connected to overpowering emotion, saying they were “exhausted from sorrow” (22:45).

The Gospel writers were very deliberate in their use of detail, not only for the sake of historical accuracy, but also to serve as clues undergirding relationships between events within their respective gospels. These two moments of the disciple sleeping in Luke alert us to a number of other parallels the author sets up between the Transfiguration and Gethsemane. First, both narratives take place on mountains. For the Transfiguration he says Jesus “took Peter James and John with him and went up a mountain to pray” (9:28). For Gethsemane we read, “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives and his disciples followed him” (22:39). Luke deliberately calls the place the Mount of Olives rather than Gethsemane in order to highlight that it is a ‘mount’ or ‘mountain’. This is because mountains are places throughout the Bible where God meets his people in person. 

Both narratives include the same four people. Luke states that Peter, James and John were with Jesus at the Transfiguration, and we know from the accounts of Matthew and Mark that it was Peter, James and John who were with Jesus in the garden before his arrest. Luke simply says ‘disciples’ at this point. Both narratives also stress the relationship between Jesus as Son and God as Father. In the Transfiguration, the voice of the Father is heard saying, “This is my Son whom I love, listen to him” (9:35), while on the Mount of Olives, Jesus prays, “Father, if you are willing take this cup from me, but not my will but yours be done” (22.42) Then, of course, both narratives have the striking parallel of sleep that overwhelms the disciples. 

So why the parallels? How might Luke intend us to interpret the relationship between the passages? In many ways, these two narratives signify central moments of revelation about Jesus relating to his true identity and to the chief purpose of his work. Luke thus apparently intends them to be understood in counterpoint to one another, as a kind of duet. The Transfiguration reveals Jesus’ heavenly glory. The appearance of Jesus at the Transfiguration is similar to John’s vision of Jesus in heaven in the first chapter of Revelation, “his face was like the shining sun in all its brilliance” (Rev 1:16). Not even in his resurrection appearances did Jesus reveal such manifest splendour, and thus the transfiguration gives a unique glimpse of the full heavenly glory of the Son. This is one reason it is included in all four Gospels. On the Mount of Olives, however, we see Jesus in his most profound moment of anguish, revealing the deepest purpose of his incarnation. For as Jesus prays, he knows that his purpose is to bear, in his body, God’s punishment for all the wrongdoing of those who find forgiveness at the cross.  The cup is an Old Testament metaphor for the cup of God’s wrath, indicating that Jesus knew his ultimate purpose was to pay for sin as a substitute for all who turn to him.

So, through a distinctive historical detail twice repeated, namely the unusual sleepiness of three disciples when they should have stayed awake, we become aware of these two narratives in dialogue. In the counterpoint which Luke establishes, we get to the very heart of Jesus identity and his mission, fulfilled in the events of that first Easter day. 


Ursula Weekes, 15/04/2019


June/July Emmanuel Newsletter 

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The June/July 2017 issue of the Emmanuel Newsletter is out.
Included in this addition are an opening article from Robin on Church unity, news from Chris Townsend, a report on the Gift Day, a preview of the Church Home and Away weekend, and more.

John Adams, 04/06/2017


April/May Emmanuel Newsletter 

Emmanuel Newletter

The April/May 2017 issue of the Emmanuel Newsletter is out and can be accessed by clicking here. (note, web login required)

Included in this addition is:

  • A wonderful summary of the recently-concluded sermon series on the Book of Ruth from our Vicar, Robin Weekes.
  • Important dates for the diary
  • A very important summary of the Vision Evening and AGM held on 5th March 2017, outlining Emmanuel’s vision for the future amidst changing circumstances
  • ‘Jesus is everything’: An update from our church partner in Banbury
  • An extract from Joelle Kenny’s latest prayer letter from Cambodia, ‘Northern Exposure’
  • An interview with one northern missionary on her calling to Christian ministry ‘down south’
  • Richard Dryer on why Home Groups are the key pastoral unit of the church
  • How the Church community in our area has been responding to the refugee crisis
  • Prayers for the Persecuted Church
George Grant, 04/04/2017


February-March Emmanuel Newsletter  


Roll-up! Roll-up! The February-March 2017 edition of the newsletter (yes, we're there already...) is now online and available to all users with a web-login for this site by clicking here

Included in this edition are:

  • A write-up of the recent Men's Weekend away
  • An update from our mission partner in Kenya, Andy Harker
  • Book reviews for How to Walk Into Church and Seoul Man
  • An update on Emmanuel's Japanese ministry
  • An insight into what it's really like looking after a church like Emmanuel
  • News from and prayers for the persecuted church


George Grant, 02/02/2017


Ten things you should know about abortion

1. Pro-life advocates present a formal case for their position.

That case is summarized in the following syllogism:

P1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
P2: Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.
C: Therefore, abortion is wrong.

2. A pro-life advocate can defend that syllogism in one minute or less.

“I am pro-life because the science of embryology establishes that from the earliest stages of development, you were a distinct, living, and whole human being. You didn’t come from an embryo; you once were an embryo. True, you were immature and had yet to visibly develop, but the kind of thing you were was not in question. And there is no essential difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today that justifies killing you at that earlier stage of development. Differences of size, development, environment, and dependency are not good reasons for killing you then but not now.”

3. That abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being is conceded by many who perform and defend the practice.

Abortionist Warren Hern writes, “We have reached a point in this particular technology [D&E abortion] where there is no possibility of denying an act of destruction. It is before one’s eyes. The sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current.” Feminist Camille Paglia frankly admits, “abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue.” Feminist Naomi Wolf calls aborting a human fetus a “real death.”

4. The Bible is pro-life even if the word “abortion” does not appear.

Scripture is clear that all humans have value because they bear the image of their maker (Genesis 1:26-28; James 3:9). In laymen’s terms, that means humans are valuable in virtue of the kind of thing they are rather than some function they perform. Humans have value simply because they are human.

Because humans bear the image of God, the shedding of innocent blood is strictly forbidden (Exodus 23:7; Proverbs 6:16-19; Matthew 5:21). Abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being. Thus, the passages in Scripture that forbid the shedding of innocent blood apply just as much to the unborn as they do every other innocent human being.

5. The Bible’s alleged silence on abortion does not mean that its authors condoned the practice.

Prohibitions against abortion were largely unnecessary in biblical times. In a culture where children are a gift and barrenness is a curse, and where a nation’s destiny depends on parents having lots of children, abortion is unthinkable.

6. Preaching on abortion is not a distraction from the Great Commission responsibilities of the local church, but integral to it.

P1: In the Great Commission, Christ charged the church to go make disciples.
P2: The way we make disciples is to “teach them to obey” his commands.
P3: One of those commands is that we are not to shed innocent blood.
P4: Abortion is the shedding of innocent blood.
C: Therefore, preaching on abortion relates to the Great Commission responsibilities of the local church.

7. The pro-life position does not rely on personal perspectives.

To assert that only women can speak on abortion is to commit the ad hominem fallacy—that is, attacking the person rather than the argument he or she presents. It also raises a troubling question: which women get to speak?

Indeed, even among feminists supporting abortion, there is no single perspective on the issue. Feminist Naomi Wolf calls abortion “a real death” while feminist Katha Pollitt thinks it no different than vacuuming out your house. In short, while gender perspectives on abortion help us understand personal experience, they are no substitute for rational inquiry. Rather, it is arguments that must be advanced and defended. After all, pro-life women use the same arguments as pro-life men.

8. Pro-life Christians tell a better equality story.

Does each and every human being have an equal right to life, or do only some have it in virtue of some characteristic that may come and go within the course of our lifetimes? Indeed, the abortion-choice position undermines human equality. That is, if humans only have value because of some developed characteristic like self-awareness that none of us share in equal measure, it follows that since that characteristic comes in varying degrees, basic human rights come in varying degrees. Human equality is a myth!

Theologically, it’s far more reasonable to argue that although humans differ immensely in their respective degrees of development, they are nonetheless equal because they share a common human nature made in the image of God.

9. Abortion-victim photography changes the narrative.

As Gregg Cunningham points out, when you show abortion pictures, “abortion protests itself.” Ephesians 5:11 says, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Nearly every successful social reform movement since the dawn of the 20th century has used disturbing imagery to convey evils that words alone are powerless to convey.

Disturbing images change how people feel about abortion while facts and arguments can change how they think. Both are vital in changing behavior. Our opponents concede this. “When someone holds up a model of a six-month-old fetus and a pair of surgical scissors, we say 'choice' and we lose,” writes feminist Naomi Wolf.

10. The remedy for post-abortion guilt is not avoidance. It’s forgiveness.

Abortion pictures are painful to see. But used properly, they set the stage for the good news of the gospel, which alone heals us from our sin. Pictures do the hard work of making sin concrete so that I can use my words to soothe and bring hope.

Post-abortion men and women do not need an excuse. They need an exchange: Christ’s righteousness for their sinfulness. Like all forgiven sinners, post-abortion men and women can live each day assured God accepts them on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, not their own. 

Scott Klusendorf is the president of Life Training Institute, where he trains pro-life advocates to persuasively defend their views. He is the author of The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture.

Scott Klusendorf, 28/01/2017


Carol singing in the Village

Last Sunday we had an opportunity to sing carols in the Village and hand out invitations to our Carol services and a little booklet on 'How to have a Happy Christmas' by Tim Thornborough.

Just as we were finishing up, the local TV station turned up to film us. You can see our tuneful efforts on YouTube.

We've had our first Carols by Candlelight servce but there are more opportunities to sing carols over the next few weeks - check out the details here

Phil Keen 12/12/16

Emmanuel Newsletter - Christmas Edition

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The Christmas Edition of the Emmanuel Newsletter is out, with info on all you need to know about what's on at Emmanuel in the run-up to Christmas and into the New Year, as well as updates and interviews from both home and abroad.

Registered members of the Emmanuel website can access the newsletter by clicking here.

Included in this edition:

  • Caroling dates for your diary, including carol singing round the village, carol services at Emmanuel and carols for the younger members of our congregation
  • An update from St George's Wembdon on the outskirts of Bridgwater (mug not included)
  • Urusla Weekes's report from October's Ministers' Wives Conference outside Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Reports on Emmanuel's overseas mission, including a report from Ethiopia and John Lobb's preparations for heading to The Gambia
  • Farewells from long-time Emmanuelites Peter & Claire Dearden as they move to Devon - they will be missed!
  • An interview with Cornhiller Joseph Matovu
  • Information on upcoming Christian Summer Camps
  • Updates and requests for prayer from the persecuted church in Iraq and Syria, where conflict and the rise of Islamic State have cost thousands of Christians their lives



George Grant, 05/12/2016


The Theme of Joy in the Philippians 


This Sunday morning we start a four-week series tracing the theme of joy in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. Joy is a central theme in the book of Philippians. There are 16 explicit references to some form of either the noun “joy” (chara in Greek) or the verb “rejoice” (chairo) in this short letter. We haven’t time to look at all of them, but I have highlighted in bold the ones we will be looking at, namely joy in prayer, joy in proclamation, joy in unity, and joy in the Lord

In terms of a definition of joy, John Piper has a good one here.

  1. Paul prays for the Philippian believers with joy (chara) because of their partnership with him in the gospel. (1:4-5)
  2. He rejoices (chairo) that Christ is proclaimed – even when Christ is proclaimed with impure motives. (1:18)
  3. He rejoices (chairo) that his current hardship will turn out for his deliverance, through the prayers of the believers and the help of the Spirit. (1:18-1:19)
  4. Paul is convinced that the continuation of his ministry to the Philippians will contribute to their “progress and joy (chara) in the faith”. (1:25)
  5. Paul has joy (chara) when the believers are unified and single-minded. (2:2)
  6. Paul would be glad (chairo) in his sacrifice for the sake of their faith, so that his ministry was not in vain. (2:17)
  7. Paul would rejoice with (synchairo) the believers in his sacrifice for the sake of their faith, so that his ministry was not in vain (2:17)
  8. Paul encourages the Philippian believers to also be glad (chairete) in his life being poured out for them. (2:18)
  9. Paul encourages the Philippian believers to also rejoice with (synchairete) him in his life being poured out for them. (2:18)
  10. Paul is eager to send Epaphroditus back to them, so that they can rejoice (chairo) in seeing him again and be less anxious about his health. (2:28)
  11. Paul encourages the Philippian church to receive Epaphroditus back with joy (chara), since he risked his life for the work of Christ. (2:29)
  12. Paul has no problem with frequently repeating the reminder to “rejoice (chairo) in the Lord,” because he knows how important it is. (3:1)
  13. Paul describes the Philippians as “my joy (chara)and crown” (4:1)
  14. Paul encourages the Philippians to “rejoice (chairo) in the Lord always.” (4:4)
  15. For added emphasis, Paul again commands the Philippian believers to rejoice (chairo). (4:4)
  16. The Philippians’ renewed ability to support his ministry caused Paul to rejoice (chairo) in the Lord greatly. (4:10)

As an accompaniment to this series we’re encouraging people to read a collection of sermons on joy by CH Spurgeon which have been bound together in a book called Delighting in the sunlit upland of grace. There are some copies on the church bookstall.

Robin Weekes, 19/11/2016


A Christian response to the US elections

A great deal has been said both before the US elections and indeed since. What is a godly response? There is surely more than one, but I was struck by this one by Ernie Johnson. It's only two minutes but well worth a watch.

Robin Weekes, 17/11/2016


A plea for friendship

On Sunday we finished two sermon series: the morning one on Genesis 1-4, and the evening one looking at some of the ways the New Testament applies Genesis 1-4. Do listen to the sermons online if you missed them.

In the evening we looked at Romans 1 and how that helps us navigate the pastorally complicated and politically charged issue of homosexuality. After the service we had a very good question and answer session. Reflecting on the evening, I wish I had made much more of the importance of friendship. I was reminded of these insightful words by John Stott:

"At the heart of the homosexual condition is a deep loneliness, the natural human hunger for mutual love, a search for identity and a long for completeness.  If homosexual people cannot find these things in the local ‘church family’, we have no business to go on using that expression.  The alternative is not between the warm physical relationship of homosexual intercourse and the pain of isolation in the cold.  There is a third option, namely a Christian environment of love, understanding, acceptance and support.  I do not think there is any need to encourage homosexual people to disclose their sexual inclinations to everybody…But they do need at least one confidant to whom they can unburden themselves, who will not despise or reject them but will support them with friendship and prayer…Same-sex friendships, like those in the Bible between Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, and Paul and Timothy are to be encouraged.  

There is no hint that any of these was homosexual in the erotic sense, yet they were evidently affectionate and (at least in the case of David and Jonathan) even demonstrative (e.g. 1 Samuel 18:1-4, 20:41-42 &2 Samuel 1:26).  Of course, sensible safeguards will be important.  But in African and Asian cultures it is common to see two men walking down the street hand in hand, without embarrassment. It is sad that our Western culture inhibits the development of rich same-sex friendships by engendering the fear of being ridiculed or rejected as a ‘queer’. 

So can I encourage us to be a church family more and more marked by healthy same-sex friendships? If we want to think more about this, why not get hold of Vaughan Roberts' little book, True Friendship. 

Robin Weekes, 07/11/2016