Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, friends in Christ,
I confess it happens more than I’d like to admit. It usually goes something like this: My wife and I will be in the same room and she will be talking to me and telling me some things that are probably quite important like, news about my family or her family, something the children did that day, or plans of something that’s going on or an appointment that she or one of the children have, and I know she’s talking and I know she’s talking to me and I know that I should be paying attention, but then at the very same time I’ll be concentrating on something, thinking about something, reading something, focusing on something else, and then all of sudden come those fateful words and you know what they are, “Are you listening to me?” Bam! Now I am! Now she has my attention, now I’m listening. But then comes the other question, “What did I just tell you?” Oh boy. All her words might have been entering my eardrums but they weren’t entering my head. Guilty.
Has that ever happened to you? Perhaps that’s more of a guy thing than a girl thing. As I understand it, people who study how men and women think have come to the conclusion that men can typically only concentrate on one thing at a time, but women can on a multiple of things at time. I can be telling my wife something while she’s got three things on the stove, rocking a baby, and ordering the other children to clean up and hear everything that I tell her. Amazing! But, regardless, each one of us struggles with listening.
And perhaps each one of us struggles most with listening to the very One whom we should be listening to the most, and that’s our God. Well, the disciple Peter had the same struggle. Our text says, “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up to a high mountain by themselves.” Well, there’s a reason why we’re told this happened “after six days,” what happened six days earlier? At the end of chapter 16 we hear about how Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” And Peter, speaking on behalf of the 12 disciples, gave an astounding answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Exactly right! He nailed it!
But then we’re told right after that Jesus began to tell the disciples how he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. But now Peter again takes Jesus to the side and does what? Begins to rebuke Jesus!! He said, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” Peter, a sinful human, rebuking the Son of the living God! Was he listening? Was he paying attention? Jesus replied, “Get behind me Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.”
Well, six days later, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a high mountain and while they were there, Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, his clothes became white as the light. An astounding thing to see. What a sight! Without a doubt, Jesus is exactly whom Peter had confessed him to be: the very Son of God, shining in absolute brilliance, the veil hiding Jesus’ true glory was pulled back for the disciples to witness. Then, what happens next? Moses and Elijah, great and important people from OT times, appeared with Jesus and they’re talking with him! Can you imagine being there? As you’re standing there watching this, here’s Moses, the great leader of God’s people who led them out of slavery in Egypt, who conversed with God and gave the Israelites the commandments of God, who led the Israelites for 40 years. And then there’s Elijah, the great prophet of God of once took on the 450 prophets of the false God Baal and confronted wicked kings, who was taken to heaven in a whirlwind of a chariot of fire. There they are having a conversation with Jesus who is shining with divine splendor and majesty! What a sight to see! What a conversation to hear!
And what does Peter do? He interrupts it all!! He knows this is an awesome experience and is good and he seems to not want this amazing experience to stop so offers to build some shelters for everyone to stay in. What glory to have and to have now! But instead of listening and observing, he interrupts.
But do we do the same? Are we more ready to speak than to listen? When we are more concerned about ourselves, about what we want, about our own interests, about what’s on our mind, then it is very difficult for us to concentrate and listen to someone else. When selfishly our interests are more important to us than the interests of others, we fail to listen and concentrate on others. God tells us that we are to be quick to listen and slow to speak and become angry. Part of putting other’s interests ahead of our own is to be genuinely interested in other people and listen to them, rather than foist our selfish interests or ideas on other people. But what is even worse than failing to listen to other people, is failing to listen to our God.
Peter isn’t the only example of this. In fact, each one of us has to examine our own hearts and our own past track record. Certainly praying is a good thing and certainly God wants us to pray to him, but remember, prayer is where WE talk to God, yes God wants us to tell him everything on our hearts and minds, but He also wants us to listen, to listen to Him. Where is it that God speaks to us? It is in His Word, we “listen” to God when we hear and read and study and think about and consider and chew on and apply His Word to our lives. Do we do this? Do we do this consistently? God wants to be the top priority in our lives, he wants us to constantly think about Him all the time, to constantly put him first in our lives all the time, constantly make decisions based on what He tells us in His Word. Could God rightly look at you and me with anger and say, “Are you listening to me??” God wants us to be patient, to take the words and actions of others in the kindest possible way, to be quick to listen and understand others before insisting on our own ideas or opinions. Could God rightly look at you and me with anger and say, “Are you listening to me??” The fact is that each one of us has failed to listen to our God, each one of us has let His words pass through one ear and out the other, each one of us has failed to take our God’s words to heart and do what He tells us. Therefore, each one of us deserves to be eternally separated in hell from the very one whom we’ve so often refused to listen to.
And so did Peter and James and John. But what happened next? A bright cloud enveloped them and God Himself interrupted Peter’s foolish talk, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.” At this the disciples are still terrified and fall face down to the ground. But notice there was no lightning bolts striking Peter dead, no fire falling from the sky to crush this sinner, rather, there was God’s voice telling them to continue to listen to Jesus and then what did Jesus do? He came over and touched and said, “Don’t be afraid.” Then Jesus led them down the mountain.
Why didn’t the disciples have to be afraid? Why don’t you and I have to be afraid of God? Because Jesus went down that mountain. This is what God wanted the disciples and He wants us to listen to. He wants us to listen to Jesus’ words and actions. You see, Jesus could have stayed on that mountain basking in the glory of being God Himself and no one could have ever touched Him. But he didn’t. He went down the mountain to go into bitter suffering and into death on a cross. Why? To pay the penalty you and I owe for our sins, for every time we’ve spoken selfishly, every time we’ve failed to listen to God. Jesus came to wash us clean from those sins and every sin with his perfect blood.
If that’s what Jesus has done for us, is He someone we want to listen to? Certainly. This Lent as we watch Jesus go down into the valley of the shadow of death, listen solemnly to God’s Words for you, for me, words like, “He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray…and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And having listened to Jesus’ grace for us, let us, in our own lives listen, seek to listen to others so that we might hear what they tell us and at the right time God might use us to encourage, to comfort, to build them up with the only message that builds us up: that we have a glorious Savior who went down one mountain to ascend another in order to go to the cross and save us and win eternal life for us, let’s listen to him! Amen.