Sermon: Listening to the Voice

Listening to the Voice
Matthew 17:1-9
RUMC 26 February 2017

At the height of his fame, while on one of his world travels, Mark Twain met a shrewd and ruthless businessman from Boston. The proud businessman boasted that nobody ever got in his way.  Then he said to Mr. Twain, “Before I die, I plan on making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Once there, I am going to climb Mount Sinai.  And when I up there I am going to read the Ten Commandments aloud at the top of my voice!”  Unimpressed, Mr. Twain said, “I’ve got a better idea.  Stay in Boston and keep the commandments.”  Now Mr. Twain wasn’t exactly what we would call a devout believer, but he was on to something.

In our Christian journey we need more than religious belief; to back up our faith we need to obey the teachings of the Lord, to do the things the Lord would have us to do. This coincides with today’s scripture passage about the Transfiguration, when the voice of God said, “This is my Son the Beloved; with him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.”

Below is today’s reading from Matthew 17:1-9.
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
This is the Word of God.

The transfiguration was the most significant event between Christ’s birth and resurrection. It was a pivotal moment in history, a time when human nature met God.  It was a meeting of the temporal and the eternal with Jesus himself as the connecting point, acting as the bridge between heaven and earth.  And what the disciples saw had to be written down so that people of all ages could believe.

When traveling to Israel today, one of the places the tour busses stop is Mt. Tabor, the sight of the Transfiguration. From the top of this mountain, one can see the bluish, oval Sea of Galilee, the long windy Jordan River and the tiny villages that dot the landscape.  It is almost identical to the view that Jesus and his disciples had.

It was on that mountain where Jesus’ appearance changed. His face shone like the brightness of the sun, and his clothes radiated the brilliance of white light.  It was the Transfiguration; the moment, Jesus was in full union with God.  Two of Israel’s greatest historical figures, Moses and Elijah, joined Jesus on the mountain.  Their presence witnessed the promise of the future resurrection of the dead.  Yet there was more:  The voice of the Father, confirmed that Jesus was the true representative of God, and that we should listened to Him.

Let’s face it the voice, the vision, and the appearance of white were important because the disciples needed confirmation of who Jesus truly was. Everywhere they went they heard the constant drum beat of the Pharisees, scribes and the priests who said that Jesus was not the Son of God, but a false prophet.

Even today, all of us need confirmation of who Jesus really is. There are many voices who say that Jesus is nothing more than a good man, or a good teacher.  Others say he was an inspirational leader who provided us with an example of love.  But the transfiguration goes above and beyond, and to me makes a convincing argument that Jesus was the Son of God and that we need to listen to him.

Another way we can look at the transfiguration is like this. What Matthew had written down was like a movie trailer of a film that has not been released yet, a sneak preview of things to come.

When we read those words, “Listen to Him,” it involves faith and obedience.  They go together, and we cannot have one without the other.

This past week, I read an interesting article on the Internet. It is called:  Top 10 Things that Frustrate Doctors about their Patients. #1.  Patients who are late for their appointments:  We understand what that means.  #2. Patients who do not follow orders:  These are the ones who do not faithfully take their medication, who cheat on diets, who continue to smoke, who become lackadaisical in regards to follow up visits or fail to follow treatment protocols.

I see some similarities with response #2 of that medical study and our Christian walk. Do we completely follow the commands of the Lord or are we like some patients in the survey who pick and choose?

I think we would do well, if we would let the words of Christ become part of our body, soul and spirit. The voice of the Father is not just for ordained ministers and local pastors, but for all of us.

  • Obedience is when we seek God with our whole hearts.
  • It is when we find ways to let the Word of God dwell in us richly.
  • It is when we say yes to whatever God asks of us.
  • It is when we follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

In the movie, The Karate Kid, young Daniel had been bullied and was beaten up by some nasty characters; so he asked a man named Mister Miagi to teach him some karate.  Mr. Miagi agreed under one condition: Daniel must submit totally to his instruction and never question his methods.  Daniel showed up the next day eager to learn.  To his chagrin, Mister Miagi had him paint a fence.  Miagi demonstrated the precise motion for the job; up and down, up and down.  Daniel took days to finish the job.  Next, Miagi had him scrub the deck using a prescribed stroke.  Again the job took days.  Daniel wondered, “What does this have to do with karate,” but he said nothing.  Next Miagi told Daniel to wash and wax three weather beaten cars and again prescribed the motion.  Finally Daniel reached his limit of frustration.  He told Mr. Miagi, “I thought you were going to teach me karate, but all you have done is have me do your unwanted chores!”  Daniel had broken Miagi’s one condition and the old man’s face pulsed with anger.  Mr. Miagi said “I have been teaching you karate, defend yourself.”  Mr. Miagi trusted his arm at Daniel, who instinctively defended himself with a wrist block and with the same arm motion used in one of his chores.  Miagi unleashed a vicious kick, and again Daniel averted the blow with a circle block, a motion used in his chores.  After Daniel successfully defended himself from several more blows, Miagi walked away which left Daniel to discover what the master had known all along; skill comes from repeating the correct, but seemingly mundane actions.

Obedience to Christ is similar to what Mr. Miagi had taught Daniel. We may not totally understand all that is happening, but if we trust and obey in all circumstances, we will be better off because of it.

Speaking of trust and obey, let me close with the words of the first verse of this great hymn.
“When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word. What a glory he sheds on our way.
While we do his good will, he abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus is to trust and obey.”

God the Father said in the cloud, “This is my son, the beloved, Listen to him.” May we do that in all of our lives.