CAMINANDO WITH JESUS: “Listen to Him!”
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
- Mark 9:2-9
There is much to be done in the work of Kingdom-creating. We find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic, awakened more than ever to the ills of systemic oppression in many forms, more aware of inequalities in access to healthcare, more aware of growing class divisions and more aware of the divisions in general in our world. As Christians, we are also well aware that we have been commanded, as the Body of Christ, to address these challenges and to live out the work of Christ in our lives. But today’s reading offers us a different perspective on just how we are to do this. It reminds us that action, without first being centered in Jesus, without first seeking clarity, will not be enough and often can be misguided. True Kingdom-creating must be centered in Jesus. We must “Listen to Him!”
Prior to witnessing Jesus’ mountaintop transfiguration, Peter had been present as Jesus performed miracles of healing and feeding, he had heard Jesus teaching the crowds, and he had been personally called upon to join in Jesus’ ministry. He had been welcomed into the action! So, when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” it was Peter who quickly announced with confidence, “You are the Messiah.” I imagine that it was tough for Peter to slow down. He very much wanted to do the right thing, and he seemed to want to do it right now. But Peter frequently struggled to recognize what was right in front of him. In his eagerness to take action, Peter often over-acted and under-listened. This is a challenge many of us in the Church continue to face today. We are ready to take action on the pressing needs all around us. But our reading today reminds us to first listen, then act.
Peter had a place of privilege among the traveling band of Jesus followers, including receiving one of only three invitations to the mountaintop. And it is there on that mountaintop that Peter was awakened to the reality that Jesus was more than he had recognized Jesus to be. It is there that he witnessed Jesus transfigure before him and saw the appearance of Elijah and Moses with him. And it was there that Peter once again, out of fear (and I suspect quite a bit of confusion) jumped into action. Without pause or hesitation, Peter blurts out, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” From his place of privilege as one who knew Jesus, Peter thought he also knew what was expected of him. He thought he knew what to do.
It is important to pay attention to what happens next in the narrative. We are told, “Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him! Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.” Peter thought he knew Jesus, and in so many ways he did. But God reminded Peter, James and John that they did not yet fully understand what it meant to participate in the work of God’s Kingdom-creating. God, in a voice from the cloud, answered the earlier question of Jesus, “Who do you say that I am.” God announced that Jesus is the Beloved. And God commanded those present, and us, to first Listen to Jesus. And on that journey back down the mountain, when Peter listened, he was introduced to a clearer picture of the work of Kingdom-creating.
Like Peter, we have been invited into the ministry of Jesus, and we have been welcomed into the Body of Christ. Our reading is not a call to inaction. Our reading is, instead, a reminder to listen first, then act. Before we take action in ways we deem right for Kingdom-creating, we are commanded to spend time listening to Jesus to better understand what action we are being called to take.
Through prayer, worship, liturgy and conversations with others, we are offered opportunities to better recognize the fullness of our Christ. And we are offered opportunities to listen. As Christians, we have much work to do. As we prepare to take on the tasks of Kingdom-creating, and to tackle the challenges we face in our world today, we must ask ourselves:
How are we listening to hear Jesus' vision of the Kingdom?
How are we listening to hear Jesus’ invitation to ministries for which we are called?
How are we listening to hear Jesus in prayer?
How are we listening to hear Jesus in those around us?
How are we listening to hear Jesus in those unlike us?
How are we listening to hear Jesus?
Philip Bass is a member of St. Luke's, Durham.
Tags: Caminando with Jesus