Why do we need to listen to Jesus?
Rev Gav’s talk, recorded live from St. Mark’s Church.
And the video…
When I was a kid I had this big storybook called ‘Heroes of the Bible’. With each story was a full-page illustration of the Bible character, and I distinctly remember a formidable, stern-looking Moses with his staff, standing before a parting Red Sea, and a mysterious-looking, wizard-esque Elijah calling fire down from heaven. To a first-century Jewish child they would have been the super-heroes of the day and their wonderful adventures are still being told at bedtime, by candlelight, today.
Moses and Elijah are the two great pillars of the Jewish faith representing the law and the prophets; two people called by God to draw humanity back to God.
Elijah appeared some 400 years after Moses and about 800 years before Christ, and Elijah embodied and exhibited many of the characteristics of Moses. It wasn’t that Elijah was Moses literally returning with a different name, or Moses being reborn or reincarnated, but there is this third category of someone coming again and it’s called redivivus. It is where someone, through their words or actions, echoes the heart of someone who has previously lived. Elijah was a Moses redivivus in the same way that John the Baptist was an Elijah redivivus.
For example, Moses and Elijah both had mentees in Joshua and Elisha, they both performed miracles such as parting waters, they both battled ruthless enemies demonstrating God’s power, they both left this world without a grave – being bodily taken into heaven, and, importantly, they both had mountain top experiences where they came face-to-face with God.
Jesus was himself a Moses and Elijah redivivus but a whole lot more. Jesus didn’t part waters but walked on them. His enemy wasn’t just a ruthless king, nor was it an oppressive empire, but evil itself. Like Moses and Elijah, Jesus also had no grave but was resurrected, and as we will discover, Jesus too had a mountaintop experience but took it to the next level.
In the gospels is a scene where Jesus took three of his disciples, Peter, James, and John up a mountain. There, Jesus was transfigured or transformed before them, becoming dazzlingly bright and he was joined by Moses and Elijah. Reminiscient of the way that Moses and Elijah had to cover their eyes in the presence of God, a cloud descended and the voice of God spoke, “This my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.”
Before we go on, let us rewind a little for I left out a bit of the story. When Moses and Elijah appeared we read that the disciples were pleased to be there and Peter suggested they set about making shelters for them and for Jesus. I imagine Jesus rolling his eyes and facepalming. Here they were, being given the most incredible mountain top experience, and Peter is doing the equivalent of ordering takeout and asking what pizza toppings they all want. I love this injection of humanity into the story, and it reminds us how we, like Peter, can be so focused on the needs of the present that we miss the big picture.
This theophany, or manifestation of God, was not a display for its own sake but took place for the three disciples. In the same way that Moses commissioned Joshua, and Elijah literally passed on the mantle on to Elisha, these three disciples of Jesus were being instructed in understanding the awesome authority of Jesus, and told directly by God to listen to him.
In our lives, like those three disciples, there are times when we do not know what to do or say and we can be frozen by fear or terrified by the circumstances in which we find ourselves. It is in those times we must remember the voice spoken on that mountain top, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
And what did Jesus say? Thank God we have his words to us written down and recorded. Perhaps we need to hear Jesus say, “Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Perhaps we need to hear Jesus say, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” Perhaps we need to hear Jesus say, “Know that I am always with you, even to the end of time.”
Today, if like me, you have a tendency to wander from the path, find yourself with tangled thoughts and emotions, and feel lost or alone, listen to Jesus. He will lead you to that place of calm, peace, assurance, and security for which your soul longs.