Are You Listening?
v.5 [Peter] was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him."
Dear friends in Christ, these words of the Father spoken at Jesus' transfiguration should sound familiar to us. We have heard them before. Indeed, at Jesus' baptism, these same words were spoken by the Father from heaven as Christ was baptized in the Jordan by his cousin, John, in order to fulfill all righteousness. From that day forward Jesus took on humanity's sin and carried it upon His shoulders, in His flesh, in order to carry out His mission of our salvation. A mission that would require great sacrifice from Jesus as He would suffer the wrath and fury of the Father for our sins in our place.
Indeed, prior to His transfiguration, Jesus had been explaining to His disciples exactly what was going to happen to Him in the days to come. Jesus said some uncomfortable things to His disciples, "that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." You will recall that upon hearing this from Jesus Peter took Him aside to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." To which Jesus replied, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." Jesus then went to explain to the disciples that "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me…For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what He has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."
It was six days after this pronouncement that some would see Jesus coming in His kingdom before tasting death, that Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him up a high mountain and was transfigured before them. The whole point of the transfiguration—indeed, of the season of Epiphany—is to confirm to the disciples (and to us all) that Jesus is the One we are to listen to—for He has been revealed as the only Son of the Father. And, that there is cross before glory—suffering and death before life and salvation. Jesus would epitomize this in His own life—and He tells His disciples that it will be the same for us. The Father puts before our eyes and ears only Jesus. He is the only Son of God to whom we must listen and obey, and no other.
It is amazing how quickly we can forget that. How quickly we can turn away from Jesus and His Word. You will recall that just before our text Peter, in response to the question asked by Jesus, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" gave the great confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." But just moments later, when Jesus told them how He must suffer and die, Peter didn't want to hear it—He didn't want to listen to Christ when Jesus told Him something that didn't fit in with what he wanted to believe about Jesus. How easily do we also turn from God's Word when it doesn't fit in with our picture of who we want God to be? How we want Him to act? This is idolatry, beloved, and must be repented of, for it is of Satan, and not from God.
Upon ascending the mountain, Jesus is transfigured before Peter and James and John, and Moses and Elijah appeared talking with Jesus. Peter offers to make three shelters, one for each of them, but by doing so puts Jesus on an equal footing with Moses and Elijah. Thus the Father comes and manifests His presence in a glorious cloud, and speaks the words, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him." This terrifying voice of God causes the disciples to cower in fear, but when Jesus comes and touches them, saying, "Rise and have no fear," they lifted up their eyes, and saw no one but Jesus only.
Only Jesus. The great comforting presence of Jesus. The One to whom we are directed to listen by no less than the Father Himself. This is He of whom Moses prophesied that One would come who was greater than Moses—and to Him the people must listen. This is the One who upheld Elijah in the wilderness—the one to whom all the prophets point. Jesus is here—now—listen to Him!
Listen, dear friends, to the words of Jesus. Listen to what He tells you. He instructs you in His Word on how you are to live. He gives you the comforting Word of His Gospel of forgiveness and peace when you fail to live and believe as you ought. Jesus specifically teaches you that cross and suffering come before glory and life.
This is not popular in the world today. We don't like the idea of having to deny ourselves, take up a cross, and follow Jesus. We would much rather indulge our lusts and desires—take up the pursuit of pleasure and happiness above all others. Jesus' words—the words of the Bible—fly in the face of conventional worldly wisdom that says if you are not happy, then do whatever it takes to make yourself happy, no matter who else it may affect. In an unhappy marriage (or, at least one that doesn't fit the intense romantic version seen in Hollywood movies)? Then simply get a divorce. Your children are resilient—they'll survive. Need more money? Then feel free to stomp all over other people on your rise to the top of the corporate ladder. Want to be well-liked by friends and family alike? Then ignore God's teaching on marriage, sexuality, life, and family—and promote the social justice causes of our day: abortion, transgenderism, and same-sex marriages.
Beloved, this is of the devil. Christ teaches us to deny ourselves—take up the cross of suffering and shame in this life—and follow Him—listen to His Word of truth. Which means for the person struggling with same sex attraction that they deny those feelings—repent of them—and lead a celibate and chaste life. It means choosing life when having an abortion would seem so much simpler and less complicated. It means staying and praying for your spouse, even though you have drifted apart, but in which there is no just cause for divorce. For this is the life of faith and trust in Christ.
Only then shall you receive the wondrous gift of glory and eternal life in Christ Jesus. He who has gifted you with His forgiveness and life—promises to uphold you in your hour of trial and suffering. Christ did not eschew affliction, but willingly drove toward the cross—embraced the wrath of God—dying for your sins—so that you might be forgiven and free to carry your own cross in following Him. Jesus was raised in glory as the firstfruit of all who believe. You are now adopted sons and daughters of God through faith in Jesus Christ—He who bled and died for you. How can you NOT listen to Him? How can you NOT rejoice in His Word to you that bespeaks you righteous—that grants you everlasting life and salvation—that promises you a place by His side in eternal glory?
Beloved, there are many competing voices in the world today—all spouting wisdom, offering advice, and counsel for daily life. But the only One to whom we are to ultimately listen, is Jesus. His Word of truth and life given for all people. He alone is the beloved Son of the Father who has done all things well and worked for our salvation. He alone is the One who bled and died to take away all our sin. His blood alone is what grants us forgiveness for all of our sins and opens the door to the kingdom of heaven.
Take up the opportunities, therefore, to hear Jesus' voice speaking to you in Word and Sacrament. You can hear Him in this very divine service each week as He declares your sins forgiven in Holy Absolution, and offers you His very own body and blood for the forgiveness of all your sins in the Holy Supper. Furthermore, He speaks to you in Bible study and daily devotion. He says to each of you, bowed down with the weight of the guilt of your sin before a holy and righteous God, "Rise, and have no fear." Beloved, lift up your eyes, and see no one but Jesus only. His wounds. His grace and favor. His peace. His blood. For you. Listen to Jesus' voice. Hear His Word of forgiveness and peace, now and forevermore. Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.