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John 21:17

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

November 22, 2000

Throwing Off My Light Meter

This is one of my summer vacation photos. Pretty lousy, isn't it?

As I snapped the shutter I didn't see a completely dark landscape and think to myself, "Saaaaay... THIS would make a great photo! Why don't I get out my camera and capture this for posterity!" No, what I saw through the viewfinder were beautiful gardens lining a quiet, serene path.

But something happened when I took the photo.

Inside my camera is a device called a light meter. Under most conditions the light meter senses how much light you need to make a good exposure. Then it changes the shutter speed of my camera accordingly, and the picture turns out pretty much as I intended.

But there's one big exception, and that's when light from the sun gets anywhere near the picture. The sun is so incredibly bright that it renders the light meter completely useless. The meter will always try to adjust the speed to what the sun's presence requires, and that throws everything else into shadows.

The manual that comes with your camera tells you this, and advises you to dramatically increase the exposure time manually so your photo will turn out.

You know what's strange? I actually followed that advice when I took this photo. I thought I'd adjusted things so the photo would turn out. And I figured I'd done pretty well, because in fact, the sun itself isn't even in this photo. It's just nearby. It's out of the field of vision.

It didn't matter. What you see is what I got.

When I saw this print for the first time, I thought: "This is exactly what happens to people when we catch even the tiniest glimpse of God's holiness."

His glory is so overwhelming that everything else in our lives is thrown into shadow, worthless. We come completely undone.

One way we know how much God loves us is that he reveals the true nature of his holiness (and the true nature of our sin) to us gradually. If he ever showed us the full picture at once, it would kill us.

The Bible is full of stories of what happened to people who came into contact with a small dose of God's glory.

Look at what happened to Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-5) or to Job (Job 42:1-6). They were overwhelmed. They were cut to the quick by their own sin.

And these people were already God's servants at the time. The rest of the people were so terrified, they begged God to stay away from them.

As Jesus, God came to earth in human form. Have you ever wondered why Jesus usually veiled his divinity? It would have been impossible for people to talk with Jesus, hang around Jesus, or learn from Jesus otherwise.

Think about how his disciples were affected whenever they got a peek behind the curtain. They were reduced to blathering incoherently (Luke 9:28-36), scared out of their wits (Mark 4:35-41), or, like Isaiah, crushed by the sudden acute awareness of their own nature (Luke 5:1-8).

Something I heard in a sermon a few years back made a lasting impression on me. The pastor said, "You know, everyone talks about Jesus being their buddy, their best friend, their pal. We sing, 'What a Friend We Have in Jesus.' And he is that, make no mistake. But no one talks about—-no one thinks about—-Jesus' holiness. We don't want to go there. It's painful, and scary, and unnerving to go there. But we need to go there. We need to be reminded. That stuff is part of the picture too."

I try to get my mind to understand the mystery, but I always come up short. The mystery of how our God—-who is so holy, so bright and so full of glory that everything else becomes shadow—-how this same God also wants to restore a relationship with us in the shadow so badly that he'd come here as one of us and die to make it possible.

Sometimes, it causes me to tremble. And that's good.



In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
       "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
       the whole earth is full of his glory."

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

—Isaiah 6:1-5