When Jesus is around, extraordinary things happen. Yet, this did not mean that the three disciples of Jesus – Peter, James, and John – perceived the extraordinary and what it really meant, at the time. The transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain was incredible. But Luke tells us that the disciples were confused, sleepy, and walked away silent about the whole affair (Luke 9:28-36).
We are not always told in the Gospel accounts why Christ’s disciples often did not understand or perceive the significance of the miraculous, supernatural, and extraordinary events that took place right in front of them. Maybe they were distracted. Perhaps they were doing some ancient form of multi-tasking. Maybe Peter was texting and driving at the same time on the way to the meeting on the mountain and had his mind elsewhere. It could be that James and John were checking their e-mails from the other disciples while all this was taking place. Perhaps they were just up too late the night before binge watching on Netflix. Whatever was going on with the disciples, they were distracted.
So, we actually have God the Father step into the scene at the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain and speak. Now, we need to understand that God is not in the business of exhorting people to listen unless they are not paying attention. The Father is quite clear, succinct, and to the point: “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”
We are to listen to Jesus because he is God’s Son, and everything centers round him. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, the full representation of God on earth. Jesus is Savior, Lord and Master, Teacher and Healer. He is all that, and more. Jesus is the complete fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises, and the one that will come again to judge the living and the dead. Jesus is the mid-point of history, the one whom we must listen to when he speaks and acts.
Our identity, then, is to be fully bent, molded, and shaped in Jesus Christ. This spiritual formation of our lives happens as we intentionally seek to be with Jesus, listen to him, and do what he says. Jesus took the three disciples up on the mountain to experience his transfiguration in a prayer meeting (Luke 9:28). Extraordinary things happen in prayer meetings. The early church gathered often in prayer meetings, following the example of their Lord Jesus. As they listened to God and responded to him (a rhythm of revelation and response), they saw Peter miraculously delivered from jail, ordinary people delivered from empty lives and demonic influence, and guidance into how to proceed as a church. Prayer is as much about listening to God as it is talking to him. It is in listening to God that we are filled with God’s Spirit and empowered to come down from the mountain and engage in God’s mission.
There was something that Jesus wanted the disciples to discern on the mountain. Jesus was changed in front of them. Moses and Elijah showed up and talked with him about his “departure” which is literally his “exodus.” Moses was the one who listened to God and led the people in a mass exodus from slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land. Elijah was a prophet who listened to God and led the people out of centuries of idol worship and dead religion into the freedom of spiritual and national revival in Israel. Jesus listened to the Father and came as the final and ultimate agent of freedom from sin, death, and hell. Jesus came so that people can experience new life, a life of freedom, hope, peace, and joy. Changed lives are God’s goal for us. And a changed life will occur when we listen to God’s Son, learn from him, and lean into faith in him, all of which takes humility.
Taking a posture of listening is a prerequisite to obedience, fruitful ministry, and success in the Christian life. Creating the space and time for this to occur both individually and corporately through private devotions and public worship is a must. In so doing, we may just clear away the distractions and encounter a transfiguration.