“Listen to Jesus”

Transfiguration of the Lord

February 26, 2017


Text:  2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9


    Jesus’ disciples had been traveling with him for quite some time.  They had seen and heard a great deal.  They had seen him heal the sick and raise the dead.  They had heard him teach publicly and privately.  They had observed Jesus as he dealt with his detractors.  They had followed this traveling rabbi around the countryside as he did this.  I think they found him simultaneously fascinating and confusing.  And it is evident that they did not really understand who they were dealing with.

    Over the past few Sundays we have heard many of the teachings of Jesus as recounted in the Sermon on the Mount, which I would sum up in this way:

  • Those who are blessed are those who live humbly and faithfully for God, even though they suffer mistreatment for doing so.

  • Let God’s light shine through you onto everyone, not so you look good, but so people give praise to God.

  • Be careful with anger, lest it lead to treating another with contempt.

  • Seek forgiveness and reconciliation from those you have wronged.

  • Live with integrity.  Let your inner attitudes and dispositions be as pure and good as your outward behavior.

  • Do not retaliate against those who hurt you.  Do good to them instead.

  • Love your neighbor and pray for your persecutors.  

  • Fulfill your God-given purpose in life by being complete in love, just as God is.

    I am sure many of these teachings seemed strange to Jesus’ disciples.  In many cases they went far beyond what they had already learned from their rabbis at home.  I am sure many of the teachings felt horribly difficult.  And I would not be surprised if the question sometimes crossed their minds, even as it crossed the lips of some of Jesus’ detractors, “Who does he think he is?”

    One day Jesus took his three closest disciples, Peter, James, and John, up on a mountain.  While they were there, the disciples saw Jesus’ appearance change in front of their very eyes--he started shining brightly.  Moses and Elijah, God’s two greatest spokespersons from the Old Testament, who had been gone from the face of the earth for hundreds of years, appeared and began talking with him.  The disciples were terrified, but Peter managed to blurt out something about building shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah (people have been known to say and do all sorts of weird things when gripped by fear).  Then a cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, who I dearly love.  Listen to him!”  The disciples fell to the ground in terror.  Next thing the disciples knew, Jesus was reassuring them not to be afraid, and the vision had disappeared.

    Now many things have been said about this vision over the years.  But I’m thinking the reason God gave this vision to the disciples was to let them know, “Hey, this is no ordinary schmo you’re following around the countryside.  This is my Son, who bears the very imprint of my being.  He speaks for me.  Listen up!”  Listen to Jesus.
    Now we all know what that word “listen” means.  It is more than hearing.  It is more than paying attention to what is being said.  We have not truly listened to Jesus until we act on what he tells us.  This is not always easy.  Indeed, even after 2000 years of exposure to Jesus’ life and teachings, people who claim Jesus Christ as Lord, even today, even and you and I, still often have a hard time living by them.  We still try to be popular and successful in the worldly sense of the word.  We seek revenge when we are wronged.  We judge some people as not being fully worthy of God’s love or ours.  Our inward attitudes often do not match our outward actions.  And even when they do match each other, sometimes the love of God in Jesus Christ does not shine through our lives.

    Jesus’ transfiguration is about more than demonstrating his greatness and his status as God’s son.  It also demonstrates to us our need to be changed, to be transformed into godly people who love as God loves. This is possible because God is at work in our lives, making us into the people God wants us to be.  But we also have to be willing to let ourselves change.  God does not force us to change.  God invites us to change, with the promise that in so doing we will receive and experience life the way God intends it to be.   

Listen to Jesus.  Let his teaching, his life, his love, and his Spirit at work within us transform us into the people God wants us to be.  Amen.

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