Listen to Him

Rev. Antony W. Ball The Transfiguration

by. Rev. Antony W. Ball

…they were afraid as they entered the cloud, and from it came a voice
‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to Him.’

Lk ix 34b,35 NEB

The Transfiguration 02

Listen to Him.” You can’t get a much simpler instruction than that. Peter, James and John were witnessing an extraordinary event – the transfiguration1. They were afraid when they entered the cloud because, to Jewish minds, that cloud represented God – so the voice which came from it was God’s voice. The Jews had been taught that, following their miraculous escape from slavery in Egypt, it was a cloud that had led them around the desert for forty years – a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night2. In our climate, we may think of clouds as being unwelcome but in hot, dry Mediterranean lands, clouds are very welcome indeed. God’s voice, speaking to them from the cloud, had a very simple message for them:

‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to Him.’

That message is simple, yes, but it’s also profoundly important. Some people may have the radio or television on without actually listening to it – and not just when it’s music (which is understandable, if you like music) but even when it’s speech and just the sound of another human voice can be comforting for them. I used to have the radio on in the car when I drove home from work, but my mind would sometimes be turning over the day’s events and I’d arrive at home and suddenly realise that I wasn’t aware of what the programme on the radio had been about – I’d been hearing, but not listening. (No doubt the same had been happening in some of the classes I’d been teaching during the day – but that’s another story!)

Peter, James and John (and the other disciples) had been living with Jesus for months, maybe years, so of course they’d been hearing what He’d been saying to them – but now they were being told, by God Himself, to listen to Him. God asks the same of each of us: that we should listen to Jesus. Most people hear about Jesus at home, or at school, or on the radio or television, or even in Church, but then they more-or-less ignore Him. He does give us the free will to decide for ourselves whether we listen to Him or not – which is a tremendous gift – but we can’t take that decision sensibly unless we first listen to what He asks of us.

We may do that listening in any of the ways already mentioned and possibly in other ways too (personally I’m not conversant with podcasts, Facebook, social media and the like) but we must be prepared to hear things which we don’t instinctively agree with – things we don’t understand and/or find challenging. What then? If we attend a Church there will be opportunities to discuss these things. God has given us brains, presumably intending us to use them. But, ultimately, it will come down, sooner or later, to whether or not we trust Jesus (or ‘have faith’ in Him, which means the same thing). We shall continue to have doubts (both faith and, arguably, even free will depend on having doubts) and God does not promise us certainty – what He does promise us is that He’ll give us the strength to cope with whatever may happen as a consequence of listening to Jesus.

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