When God Speaks Directly To Us

Rev. Taylor Hall Avatar

Let us pray. Loving God, we stand in awe of your glory and your grace. As we dive into your Word today, may our hearts be open and our minds receptive to your message. Amen.

As we gather here today, on the Sunday before we move into the Season of Lent, we are reminded of a significant event in the life of Jesus: the Transfiguration. 

The Transfiguration, as described in Mark’s Gospel, is a profound and transformative moment in the ministry of Jesus. It occurs shortly after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah, or the holy prophet that was promised to God’s people. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a high mountain, where he is transfigured before them. His clothes become dazzling white, and Elijah and Moses appear, speaking with Jesus. The dazzling white clothes symbolize His divine glory, and the presence of Elijah and Moses represents the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets in Jesus.

But this transfiguration is not merely a physical change in Jesus’ appearance; it is a revelation of his divine glory. The disciples see Jesus in his true nature, radiating with the brilliance of God’s presence. It is a glimpse of the kingdom of God breaking into the present reality, a moment when the earthly veil is lifted, and the disciples catch a glimpse of the heavenly realm. It is a pivotal moment in Jesus’ ministry, and it serves as a bridge between his earthly ministry and his impending journey to the cross. 

Can you imagine what Peter, James, and John were doing – let alone thinking?! – as Jesus was transformed before them? No really, think about it! The man you call teacher is now shining with a blinding white light, two notable figures who you thought were long dead appear, and while you are asking about whether you should be setting up tents for your dazzling teacher and his two dead companions, a voice breaks forth from the heavens. What would you be thinking? What would it have been like for you to be a witness to the transfiguration? 

And while that thought may be too strange for us imagine, what the disciples must have been thinking, this was not just a spectacle for the disciples to witness!

When the voice break forth from the heavens, it is God speaking directly to the disciples. God says, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7). This direct communication from God to the disciples is a significant departure from a previous miraculous event in which God spoke only to Jesus during his baptism (Mark 1:11). God is publicly affirming Jesus’ identity as the beloved Son and commanding the disciples to listen to Him. There is no way the disciples left that moment unchanged! God spoke directly to them!! 

To believe Jesus was the only one who experienced a transformation during the Transfiguration ignores another one of God’s holy miracles. In fact, the real transformation does not occur during the Transfiguration, after all Jesus as the Word was in the beginning “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God […] And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” Jesus is already God and the Son of God before and after the Transfiguration, like Jesus was in the beginning of creation and like Jesus continues to be as Christ reigns over us with God and the Spirit as our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. The real transformation happens to the disciples, when they finally see that Jesus is not merely a teacher or a prophet, but the very embodiment of God’s love and grace.

The Transfiguration was a unique and transformative moment in the disciples’ journey with Jesus. As they witnessed Jesus’ divine radiance, they were given a glimpse of his true nature and the magnitude of his mission. This experience was not only meant to strengthen their faith but also to prepare them for the challenges that lay ahead, including Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. By witnessing the transfiguration and hearing God’s command, the disciples are being equipped to carry on Jesus’ ministry, even in the face of opposition and uncertainty. The disciples are given the same strength echoed in Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who is against us?”

God’s direct address to the disciples underscores the significance of their role as followers of Christ. They were being entrusted with a sacred task, to listen to Jesus and carry his message to the world. This command was not given lightly. It was an invitation to be transformed by the words and teachings of Jesus, to follow him as his disciples, and to become his ambassadors of love and reconciliation.

This is not the only story in Scripture where a person, after communing directly with God, leaves transformed. 

The transfiguration story also echoes the Old Testament account of Moses’ encounter with God.  In the Exodus narrative, God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and commanded him to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 3:7-10). God’s direct communication with Moses left him transformed and empowered him to lead the people out of bondage and into the promised land. 

Or think of the prophet Isaiah, who heard God’s call to speak up for justice and liberation (Isaiah 61:1-4). Isaiah listened to God’s voice and became a voice for the voiceless, proclaiming good news to the oppressed and binding up the brokenhearted.

Another example is found in the story of Saul, who encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Saul, a persecutor of Christians, was blinded by a divine light and heard the voice of Jesus saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). Through this encounter, Saul’s life was radically transformed. He became the apostle Paul, a faithful follower of Christ, spreading the message of grace and salvation to the Gentiles.

Furthermore, when asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39). These commandments encapsulate the essence of Jesus’ teachings. They call us to a radical transformation of our hearts and our relationships, to love unconditionally and seek justice for all.

Throughout scripture, we see that when followers of God listen and respond to God’s divine voice, transformation occurs. They understood that God speaking directly to them was not meant for them alone, but for the sake of God’s kingdom. Their willingness to listen and respond to God’s call brought about profound transformation, not just unto themselves but transformation for the world.

In the context of the transfiguration, we can draw a parallel between the disciples’ experience and our own journey as followers of Christ. Just as God spoke directly to the disciples, affirming Jesus’ identity and calling them to listen to him, God continues to speak directly to us today. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God invites us to listen attentively to Christ and to discern how we are called to respond to the needs of the world around us.

When God speaks directly to us, it is not merely for our own spiritual growth or personal satisfaction. God’s voice is a call to action, a summons to participate in the work of justice, liberation, and reconciliation. 

Listening to God’s voice requires openness, humility, and a willingness to be transformed. It demands that we set aside our own agendas and desires, and instead align ourselves with God’s purposes. It may lead us to uncomfortable places, to confront our own biases and prejudices, and to step out of our comfort zones. But when we respond faithfully to God’s call, we become ambassadors of love and reconciliation in the world. We are embodying the love of Christ in our words and actions, revealing the light of God’s glory in the darkness of our world.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul reminds us that God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God’s voice, God’s command, is a light that shines in the darkness, illuminating our path and guiding our steps. This light is not meant to be hidden but to shine forth in our lives, transforming us and our world.

When God speaks directly to us, it is not simply an invitation to hear; it is a call to transformation. It is a call to participate in the unfolding of God’s Kingdom on earth. It is a call that invites us to listen, to obey, and to act. Like the disciples, Moses, Isaiah, Paul, and countless others throughout history, we are called to be transformed by the words and teachings of Jesus, to be his ambassadors of love and reconciliation.

As we head into the season of Lent, we remember the words spoken by God on the mountaintop: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” May these words echo in our hearts as we seek to follow Jesus, allowing his transformative love and grace to shine through us. May we be vessels of his light in a world longing for hope, peace, and redemption. Amen. 

Now, let us close with prayer:

Gracious God, thank you for speaking directly to us through your Son, Jesus Christ. Open our ears to hear your voice and our hearts to obey your commands. Transform us by your grace and empower us to be faithful witnesses of your love and truth. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.