Listening to Jesus

And Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. – Mark 9:1-8

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Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ. January 2017

Can you imagine your most favorite place on earth? Now try describing it to someone who has never been there. Better yet, try describing it to a blind person. How would you describe it? Colors? Sounds? Smells? Textures? Tastes?

This is the challenge of explaining the rule and reign of God to someone: how do you describe it? What does it look like? What does it feel like? Is it compelling, or exciting, frightening, or desirable?

On the mountain of transfiguration we have a small clue. Jesus has told his disciples that there were some standing there who would not die before they had seen the rule and reign of God having come with power. Then six days later…

  • Jesus is transfigured – his clothes, appearance and being shines with unborrowed light.
  • Two Old Testament representatives (representing the Law and the Prophets, and notably having not died in the normal manner of man)  appear with him in the splendor of his glory.
  • Peter, James, and John see it all.
  • God announces that Peter (and any of us prone to speak at such holy moments) should shut up and listen to Jesus.
  • Then, in the end, there is only Jesus.

As I consider this event, I conclude that if you are to describe the rule and reign of God you would listen to Jesus, and try to exercise restraint of speech! Listening requires work, effort, intentionality, and concentration. It means putting aside distractions. It calls for us to wait until he speaks in a non-anxious manner, ready to learn and be shaped by him.

Listening to Jesus means that we see his words, teachings, and example as trumping all others. We may have heroes (Martin LutherAnsel Adams or Vivian Maier come to my mind). We may read other books, watch movies, or listen to various podcasts. But in the end, Jesus’ teachings takes precedence. He is the One whose presence, word, and being is the axis of all that is the rule and reign of God. Listen… to Jesus. We have precious few of his words (cf. John 20:30-31). But the few we have are precious: they bring light and life to the soul.

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