‘Listen to him.’ I will never forget those words. I will never forget that voice, booming from above. It was so simple; so straight-forward. ‘Listen to him.’ And yet, it was something that I just couldn’t remember to do, time and time again.
Less than a week before James, John and I had our mountaintop experience, I had one of those moments. Jesus had asked us who we thought that he was. And I, Peter, the usual spokesman for the group, had an answer. ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ I said. After giving this confession, Jesus told me some amazing things. That on this truth he was going to build his church. That the gates of hell could not overcome it. That I would receive the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus called me blessed for proudly proclaiming who he was. It showed that I had been listening.
But then, Jesus started talking about what the Christ must do. He talked about suffering. He talked about dying. I heard him, but I wasn’t really listening. I tried to talk him out of it saying, ‘This shall never happen to you!’ And that’s when Jesus turned to me and called me Satan, because I was trying to stand in the way of what his Father sent him to do. And then he started talking about how we would all have to deny ourselves and take up crosses and even lose our lives. These were important words, essential ones. But how soon I would forget.
So a few days later we come up to this high mountain, the three of us and Jesus. And then, something happened. I can’t really explain what it was or how it was, but Jesus…changed. It was as if this glorious light within him was trying to get out. He just started glowing brighter and brighter. His face began to blaze like the noon-day sun. Even his clothes shone with brilliance. Believe me, his was no trick of the sunlight; this was no momentary glare or reflection. This was a miraculous metamorphism taking place. It was as if he was revealing himself to us; showing us the fullness of what he truly possessed.
If that wasn’t enough to knock our sandals off, suddenly two men appeared with Jesus. And just any men—Moses and Elijah! How I knew it was them, I couldn’t tell you. But it was crystal clear in my mind, even as it was being blown away. What a sight this was! Moses the great giver of the Law; Elijah the great prophet of the Messiah; and Jesus the glorious fulfillment of all things. Who would ever want to leave this holy place? Certainly, not me! So I said, ‘Lord, this is amazing! This is awesome! Let’s stay here. Let’s not go anywhere. Here, we can make some shelters for each one of you. I don’t even need one. We’ll just stay outside. Please, don’t ever let this glory end.’
I almost didn’t notice that at this very same moment, a cloud was rolling in. And just any cloud. It was bright and shining; kind of like Jesus was. Soon it surrounded us, sheltered us, cut us off from everything else. Then the voice of the Father came forth. ‘This is my Son, whom I live; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’ The voice of God registered down to my very soul. It so overwhelmed me and the others that we fell to the ground, too terrified even to look up. But then, just as quick as it all happened, it was over. Jesus, no longer basked in glory, put his hands on our shoulders and said, ‘Don’t be afraid.’
He told us not to tell anyone about this moment. He said the three of us should keep it to ourselves, which we did. But we also talked to each other about it, trying to figure out what it all meant. Clearly, we were meant to see this. Surely this meant something important. There was something more this this than just a display of power, than just a show of glory. Jesus wasn’t trying to scare us or even wow us. He wanted to give us something, I just didn’t know what. And the voice of the Father just kept ringing in my ears, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’
Soon, the time came for all of Jesus’ words to come true; even the ones that I didn’t want to hear. He warned me that I was going to deny him, but I thought I was too strong for that. In the garden, he told me to watch and pray so as to not fall into temptation, but I was too tired to heed the advice. Then the soldiers came with their swords and clubs, and Jesus was taken away. It was just as he said it would be, that it must be…but I could no longer hear him. And it all went downhill from there. First, I tried to stop them with my sword. Later I denied even knowing Jesus. And finally, in fear and terror I called down curses on myself to save my own skin. When the rooster crowed, I knew what had happened. I hadn’t followed the command of my Lord. I hadn’t heeded the Word of my God. I did not listen to him.
Some time later, however, I was able to look back at the Mount of Transfiguration, and find peace once again in my soul. Because in that moment Jesus was showing himself to me as he truly was. Not merely a rabbi, not only a friend, not just a brother, but the Son of the living God. In that place we got a glimpse of his glory that we might remember it as he became the suffering servant. He was not some weak prophet being taken down by the establishment. He was the promised Messiah who needed to die for the sins of the world. He was the Majestic Glory, willingly laying down his life for me. This is why he was beloved by his Father. This is why with him, God was well pleased. This is why we all must listen to him, for he is our Savior. Because of this majestic sight, I knew I was forgiven. I knew what glories soon awaited me in his kingdom. So, no matter what I faced, I would listen to him my whole life through. This glimpse of the glory of Jesus would strengthen me time and time again.
Now perhaps you are thinking to yourself, ‘Well, that’s great for you, Peter. But what about me? I wasn’t there to see Jesus’ glory shine. I wasn’t wrapped up in that cloud. I didn’t hear the voice of God. What good is all this going to do for me?’
Well, let me ask you this: Have you ever gotten so wrapped up in your own plans and ideas that you didn’t have time to take Jesus’ words to heart? And so, your Bible didn’t get read between Monday and Saturday. Have you ever been so displeased with what Jesus said that you decided your way was better? And so, it became okay to skip worship again and again. Have you ever been so worried about what others might think of you that you decided to set the Word of God aside? And so, you didn’t speak up when his truth was being maligned. Have you ever been so overcome by fear that you forgot the promises of God and wallowed in doubt and despair? Even though we know and believe the Word of our God to be the source of all that is good and pure and right, still, we fail to listen to him time and time again. And to do so is no less than to deny our Lord and our God.
But just as Jesus said to me on that holy mountain, so also, I say to you: ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Instead, hear again the voice of your heavenly Father: ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ Behold the sight of Jesus, your Lord and your Redeemer. See the heavenly glory shine forth from his face, for he is the source of your salvation. The one who goes meekly before the high priest is also the one who possesses the power to crush Satan under his feet. The one who is disfigured by whips and nails and thorns is also the one who has the strength to destroy the curse of sin. The one who dies on the tree is also the one who is able to conquer death; not just for himself, but for all the world. This is the beloved Son of God who is able to cover all of your failures to listen with his perfect righteousness. This is heaven’s most glorious King, come to free you from all your denials with his innocent death.
So, ‘Listen to him!’ Listen to him as he declares from his cross, ‘It is finished.’ and know that your sins have been paid for. Listen to him as he rises from the grave and so proclaims, ‘You will be with me in paradise.’ Listen to him as he pours out the water of your baptism and says, ‘your guilt is washed away.’ Listen to him as speaks in Communion and declares, ‘This is my body and my blood, for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.’ Listen to him as he proclaims his unfailing love for you that will be with you both now on this earth, and forever in heaven.
And then, having been filled with the fullness of his grace and glory, listen to him your whole life through. Listen to him as he calls you away from the darkness of sin and towards the light of his Word. Listen to him as he shows you the way to live to the glory of his name. Listen to him as the reveals to you the best way to live: loving your neighbor as yourself; respecting those in authority; helping others in their need; and proclaiming the Gospel to all. Listen to him as he guides you through this veil of tears with the non-stop promises of comfort and strength. Listen to him as he turns your attention away from the trappings of this world and to your eternal glory that awaits in the kingdom of heaven.
‘Listen to him!’ This is what drove me to keep on preaching even after I was flogged and told to speak of Jesus no more. This is what kept me going even as I was bound in chains in prison. This is what gave me the courage to follow after the ways of God even as many others around me told me not to bother. So, ‘Listen to him!’ Never forget these words of your heavenly Father. Never forget the glimpse of glory that you have seen in his Son. Never forget to focus all your attention on Christ. For he is everything that you will ever need, forevermore. Amen.