Six days later, 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, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then 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.’ 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’
Mark 9: 2-7 NRSV
This scene upon a mountain is pivotal in Jesus’ ministry. Even the Gospel writer Mark thought so, for he placed the story almost in the exact center of his Gospel. The underlying theme of this mountaintop experience is THE major theme of the whole Gospel: who is Jesus Christ?
The voice of God the Father, booming from the cloud makes Jesus’ true identity very clear. “This is my Son, whom I love.”
Although this passage can be examined and considered from many different angles, one viewpoint seems especially relevant right now: talking and listening.
When overwhelmed by the amazing vision of Jesus on the mountain, with his clothes glowing white, Peter does what many of us do when we are nervous: he starts talking. One gets the idea that he is just saying the first thing that pops into his head. He comes with a hare-brained and somewhat inappropriate idea to build some “booths” up on the top of this mountain. Peter begins to ramble. This was a moment of reverence, a moment for awe and quiet, and Peter starts rambling…
Graciously, Jesus ignores Peter’s suggestion. The Gospel writer suggests of Peter: “He did not know what to say.” To my mind, that is polite way of saying, “Peter just said something which was a little silly, and maybe even stupid, but we ought to forgive him anyway.” Jesus did not cancel Peter when Peter said something that was a bit useless at the moment. Jesus understood what was going on within Peter, and where Peter was coming from. Gospel writer Mark even points to a possible reason behind what Peter blurts out: fear. The disciples were uncomfortable, and most likely scared. Do you blame them?
Yet the passage is about more than just Peter talking nonsense. It is also about direction from God the Father. The voice coming from the cloud says, “This is my son. Listen to him.” The clear message of the story is that there are times when we are called to speak, but perhaps much more often, there are times when we need to start by listening.
Peter, James and John saw Jesus on the mountain talking with Moses and Elijah. Thus, the disciples were in the presence of great leaders who had died hundreds of years before. Their powerful presence and the mighty voice of the Lord speaking had to be one of the most awe-inspiring moments, and probably one of the scariest. To hear the voice of the Lord, booming out from above would bring fear to anyone. The Lord’s message to the disciples was confirmation to all of us about who Jesus is. The Lord may not speak with a booming voice to us, but He does speak….when we listen.
The voice of Jesus is to be the guiding voice we should listen to each day. We cannot do so if we are constantly filling up air time with our chatter. It requires us to be still, and listen.
Consider how much better our world might look if everyone did a little less talking, and a little more listening. It would be a welcome change from the “talking heads” yelling over each other on TV! Who knows what would happen if we listened more? What might we learn from one another? If we adopted that strategy and modeled it for others, there might be little less nonsense in the world…
I thank You for always being ready to listen to me. At the precise moment I come before You, You are already there, just waiting for me! Give me patience with myself, and forgive me when I chatter, rather than listen. Quiet my mind. Help me to slow down, and listen to You. Cause me to remember that You speak to me through others. Whisper the reminder that I can do the same in return. Today and every day, may I use the time You give me to honor You. I pray this prayer in Your holy name. Amen