“Listen to Him” 

Matthew 17:1-13

Last week we read that Jesus told His group of disciples and followers how things were going to transpire for the rest of His time with them. He was going to lead them back to Jerusalem and while there Jesus would suffer at the hands of the religious leaders, however, He would also rise from the dead three days later. Jesus also told them straight out that should they continue to follow Him that they too would have a cross to bear. 

As we read about this journey back to Jerusalem, one thing sticks out for me, 

the disciples weren’t very good listeners. 

Jesus but lays out the game plan and it’s like the disciples hear Jesus but they don’t listen. Oh they heard the words, but by their actions I wonder if they really listened. 

Here is the definition of “listen,”

  1. Give one’s attention to a sound
  2. Take notice of and act on what someone says; respond to advice or request
  3. Make an effort to hear something; be alert and ready to hear something

Jesus will keep sharing details with the disciples and they will continue to hear the words, but not listen to what is said. It’s like they already have an agenda in their heads. They have their vision of what will happen and whatever Jesus says gets morphed into their agenda. Don’t you want to tap them on the shoulder and say, “Hey, disciples, didn’t you just hear what Jesus said? Are you listening?”

In today’s Scripture reading Matthew tells us, “after six days,” which is a Greek way of saying “about a week later,”  Jesus did what He often did: He went up a high mountain to pray. 

This time He took Peter, James and John along with Him. There are various speculations as to why these three men were chosen. Based on verse 9, some think Jesus only took three because had He taken all the disciples with Him the miracle would have been told before the time was right. Others think the three chosen needed closer supervision, while others believe these three were part of Jesus’ inner circle. 

The next speculation occurs as to what “high mountain” did they ascend?

There have been several suggestions, however, it boils down to three realistic possibilities:

  1. There is Mount Tabor, but it isn’t really “high” and it was not on the way from Caesarea Philippi to Capernaum.
  2. Mount Hermon, this mountain is high, but more than likely too high and too cold on its summit to spend the night and they would have not been close to any Jewish crowds when they descended.
  3. Most likely, it was Mount Miron, the highest mountain in the Jewish area, on the way they were headed. 

I think it is curious that this place was never determined. As if God knew we would make a shrine out of it or something? Because, what happened there was utterly amazing. 

Jesus transfigured before the disciples. 

The word “transfigured” means not only was His outward appearance changed, His entire body was difficult to look at. 

The Greek word is metamorphoo, the English word we use for metamorphosis. A change was made from the inside that was outwardly visible. 

In reality, this was not a new miracle, but the undoing of an ongoing miracle that had been happening since Jesus’ birth. 

Think about it. 

Jesus was born a human and in order to be seen as a human He had to keep from displaying His glory at all times. Up on the mountain, Jesus simply showed His true colors, exactly who He was. He didn’t need to hide inside a human shell. John writes about this saying, 

“We beheld His glory.” 

Peter wrote, “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”

The way Matthew describes what had happened is that Jesus’ face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light. He hadn’t been transformed into another type of being. He was still Jesus, He still had a face and body. However, He was shining brilliantly. 

To add to the transfigured Jesus, remarkably Moses and Elijah appear and begin talking with Jesus. The three disciples had to have been blinking and rubbing their eyes. Were they imagining things? Moses had lived some 1400 years before and Elijah some 900 years earlier. According to Matthew, they too were alive and in some kind of resurrected, glorified, state of being. 

Why Moses and Elijah? We need to step back into the time period and put ourselves in the shoes of the disciples. These two men represented particular issues for the Jewish people. 

Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented the Prophets. These two topics summed up the Old Testament and they had come to meet with Jesus, the Messiah. The disciples would have also thought of Moses also representing those who die and go to glory, while Elijah representing those who are caught up to heaven without death.

Quite the reunion don’t you think? Although Matthew doesn’t record this, we read in the Gospel of Luke what the three men discussed. They talked about Jesus’ departure from the world that would be happening in Jerusalem. How it would begin with the work of the cross and result in a resurrection from the dead. 

Can you picture this in your mind? Three disciples, astonished as they watch a transfigured Jesus have a conversation with Moses and Elijah? 

There was no disputing that it was happening. 

All three had the same account. 

Then who interrupts, again? 

but Peter, and notice, 

He gets cut off again, 

this time by God. 

Why does Peter keep jumping in and saying things without thinking? I believe Peter honestly thinks he is being helpful. As a teacher myself I have had many students who immediately answer a question, right or wrong. Sometimes it’s because they want to be the first at everything. Sometimes they want to demonstrate how much they know. And often, like Peter, they just don’t think before they speak. 

At this point, Peter’s response of building three tabernacles or what we would consider tents, wasn’t a bad idea, however, it meant that Peter viewed Jesus as equal with Moses and Elijah. 


not so quickly a voice from the cloud of God’s glory announced dramatically. 

If you read the accounts from Mark and Luke’s gospels, they give Peter a bit of slack and attest that Peter really didn’t know what he was saying. 

But the bright cloud that overshadowed them heard what Peter said and corrected it right away. 

This cloud was God’s glory, shekinah, 

is the Old Testament term. 

It was seen as the veiling of God the Father because no human was to see God and live. 

God the Father interrupts Peter because the disciples needed to know that Jesus was unique. He was not just another Moses or Elijah, He was God’s beloved Son!

And because of this, He deserves our special attention, so ‘Listen to Him.” 

This voice from the cloud was affirming what had been said before in Scripture:

> Psalm 2:7 – The Father says to the Son: “You are my Son.”

> Isaiah 42:1 – The Father says to the Son that He is “One in whom My soul delights.”

> Deuteronomy 18:15 – God the Father says through Moses about the coming of Jesus, “Him you shall hear.” 

Can you see Peter’s and the other disciples’ faces? Huh?

Jesus is the only begotten Son!? Greater than Moses and Elijah!? Boy have we been lost? 

This was a new paradigm, one that even though three of them are on a mountain, face to face with this transfiguration and hearing God’s voice, it will still take the resurrection for them to fully comprehend. 

Can you recognize how firmly the teachings of the religious leaders had penetrated into these devout men? 

Peter stopped talking but had he started listening? 

Let’s stop for a moment and reflect on this concept. I will venture that everyone in this room has something in common with Peter, James and John. 

Think about it. 

We made a conscious decision to spend the better part of  a Sunday morning worshiping God, with others. The majority of the world around us did not. 

If you managed to be part of today’s worship then I would say you too have some deeply rooted religious beliefs, or at least you are open to checking some out. My hope for you today is that if you listen to anyone, you should listen to Jesus. 

Stop for a moment and ponder what we just read. The disciples knew the voice they heard was God, the Father so one would think that a voice from heaven would have said, “Listen to me!” 

But the Father said, “Listen to Him.” 


A good question, one to ponder this afternoon. 

I’ve been thinking what my answer would be and I wonder if it was because we can relate to Jesus, He became human, like us, whereas God is a bit beyond our comprehension. 

Regardless, the directive is clear, “Listen to Jesus.” The Father didn’t say, 

remember your Bible lessons, or 

follow Moses or 

follow Elijah, or 

follow your Bible teachers,  

instead, He said, “Listen to Jesus. 

We next read the disciples reaction to the voice, 

holy fear!

Notice the point they hit the ground shaking in fear. 

They didn’t do this when they saw the transfigured Jesus shining like a beacon or 

when Moses and Elijah appeared and had a conversation with Jesus. 

They didn’t drop down in fear when the cloud of glory appeared and overshadowed them. 


when they heard the voice from heaven, 

on their face, 

to the ground, 

watch out! 

They were overpowered 

rather than empowered. 

Jesus comes alongside, reaches down and touches them and tells them they can get up and not to be afraid. 

Okay, freak out moment! Do they dare open their eyes? 

Is that really Jesus talking to them? 

They looked up and all they saw was Jesus, 

back to the man they had been following for three years, their friend. 

Their entire focus was on Jesus, no cloud, no Moses, no Elijah, just Jesus. 

But not just the Jesus they knew before. Their minds had to be racing. A week ago, Jesus had revealed the humiliation and suffering He was going to endure. Which made the revelation that Jesus was the only begotten Son of God seem surreal. All of these details had to be swimming around in their minds, as they came down the mountain. Then Jesus commands them not to share what they had just experienced with anyone, until He had risen from the dead. 

Holy secrets? Really? What just happened?  

Why shouldn’t they tell? Most likely telling those who were not there about the transfiguration, before Jesus rose from the dead would test their faith rather than strengthen it. Plus, based on the next question, even the disciples who were there didn’t totally comprehend what had happened. 

Because they respond by questioning Jesus about what they had been taught, that Elijah was supposed to come first, wasn’t he? This would have been from the promise made in Malachi 4:5, 

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.”

These guys really do know their Scriptures, imagine remembering a verse from Malachi! Another way of asking this question would be, If Elijah was supposed to come before the Messiah, how is it that he just appeared, after you?

Jesus affirms their understanding by revealing the Elijah spoken of in Malachi had come first, through John the Baptist, who ministered in Elijah’s spirit and power, 

Luke 1:17. 

We can imagine as they continued to walk off that mountain, Peter, James and John were in deep meditation. The only begotten child of God was walking right beside them. 

What is even more amazing, 

He is walking right beside us as well. 

We too are children of God, adopted into His family because of the crucifixion and resurrection 

of the one and only. 

God had one Son, Jesus, and 

with a Son like Jesus, He didn’t NEED more. 


God does know that we NEED a Father. 

As our creator, His love makes sure we are invited into the family, freely, 

by accepting His grace of forgiveness for our sins and by listening to Him.  

Let’s pray.