The season of Epiphany begins with Jesus' baptism and ends with His Transfiguration. In both of these events we have a glimpse of what our Confessions call the “sublime articles of the divine majesty” [Smalcald Articles I.1], namely the teaching of the Holy Trinity, that there is only one God, who eternally exists in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In Jesus' baptism we see the Son, Jesus, standing in the waters of the Jordan River being baptized by John. The third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, comes down upon Him in the form of a dove. And the Father speaks from heaven, preaches a sermon: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Likewise in the Transfiguration, we see the Son, Jesus, standing on top of the mountain, speaking with Moses and Elijah about His “exodus”, His departure, and shining in the brightness of His glory. The Holy Spirit surrounds them as a radiant cloud, and the Father? Again He preaches a sermon, saying, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And then the charge is added, “Hear Him.”
Dear people of God, this is stunning. We should seize onto these words, for God the Father has nothing better to say to us than:
“This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
With these words He points us to our dear Lord Jesus and gives Him all the honor and glory. “Look here, look at this Man. Here in the Jordan being baptized; here on the mountain transfigured. This is the One to save you, this One and no other. Here is My Son whom I love, in whom I am pleased. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
God the Father points and directs us to God the Son, to our Lord Jesus, and adds the charge, “Hear Him, Listen to Jesus and no other. Hear Him.”
Let us this morning impress these words onto our hearts by asking three questions:
1.Who do we hear?
I. First, who do we hear? Who do we listen to? There are, after all, a lot of voices clamoring for our attention. Our lives are filled with noise, voice, shouting. Advertisers selling, talk show hosts persuading, news anchors informing (at least, we hope), friends conversing, music blaring, doctors prescribing, preachers preaching. All these voices shout, “Hear me! Listen to me!” Some of these voices are good, others troublesome. Some are speaking without saying a thing.
But there is another, a very dangerous voice that fights for our attention and wages a war for our ears, a voice that has followed us all our lives, the lying, stealing, murdering voice of the devil. His voice broke the perfection in the garden with the words, “Did God really say?” and the voice continues to tempt us today.
“Hear me,” the devil says as He fills our ears with His lies and deception, tempting us to doubt God's Law. “That sin isn’t so bad, and God will forgive you anyhow, go ahead and do it.” So the devil tempts us to live for ourselves, live for the moment, live for pleasure, ignoring God’s commands.
Or even worse, the devil sends false teachers, dressed in sheep’s clothing, tempting us to doubt God's Word, saying, “Listen to them.” And with his horde of false teachers the devil would stuff our ears with lies. Lies that there are many ways to heaven, that all people worship the same God, that Jesus isn’t that important and you can get along without Him. Lies that you don’t need to repent, that you don’t need forgiveness, or, the worst ever told, tempting us to doubt God's Gospel, saying, “Jesus can't forgive you.”
That’s how the devil talks to us. “Hear me,” he says as he puffs us up with pride. “Go a head and sin… don’t worry about God.” And then, after we sin, he says, “Listen to me” as he plunges us into despair. “God will never forgive you for that.”
There is a battle for your ears, a battle between God and the devil. Who do you listen to? Who do you hear? Have we listened to the devil as he stuffs our ears so full of lies that we could not hear the voice of Jesus.
Hear the clear and booming voice of God the Father from the cloud: “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” Listen to Jesus. Do not give your ear to the devil or his false teachers. Do not believe their lies. Do not be puffed up in pride. Do not be drowned in despair. Stop listening to the devil. Listen, instead, to Jesus.
There is no confusion here. God tells us exactly which voice we are to listen to, which voice we are to heed, which voice we are to follow: the voice of our Lord Jesus.
II. And this brings us to our second question: Why? Why are we to listen to the voice of Jesus? The devil came to steal, to kill, and to destroy, but Jesus comes that we may have life, eternal and never ending life. “My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me.” [St John 10:4]
God Himself tells us why we are to hear Jesus: “This is My beloved Son.” Jesus is the very Son of God, both God and man. Conceived by the Holy Ghost, and, born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus is true God. All authority on heaven and on earth has been given unto Him. He speaks to us of the things that He has seen in heaven, things that only He has seen and only He can make known, for “no one at any time has seen the Father, but the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father has made Him known.” [St John 1:18]
It is about Jesus that all the Scriptures speak of, as we can see with Moses and Elijah standing with Him on the mountain. He is the promised Messiah, the deliverer of God’s people, the content of the entire Bible and the fulfillment of all of our hopes. He is the reconciler of God and man, our great high priest. Our Brother, our Savior, our Lord. Why do we listen to Jesus? Because He is Jesus, our Lord and our God.
III. And this brings us to our third question, when we listen to Jesus, what does He say? After Jesus had taught some difficult things concerning eternal life in Him, many of the people following Him turned away. Jesus turned to the twelve and asked, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” [St John 6:67-68] When we listen to Jesus, that’s what we hear: words of eternal life.
Hear Him when He says to you, “Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” [St Matthew 11:28]
Hear Him when He says to you, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” [St John 16:33]
Hear Him when He says to you, “I have come to seek and to save to lost.” and “the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” [St Luke 9:56]
Hear Him when He cries out from the cross, “It is finished.” Hear Him and know that He has done it all for you. He has died for you. He has forgiven you. He has called you His own dear and precious child. Your sins are washed away. You have eternal life.
When we leave here today, we will again be flooded with a cacophony of voices fighting for our ears. Impress this word of God on you heart and mind: “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” Let that word cut through all the other voices, and rest in the comfort of Jesus’ voice, the voice that forgives our sins.
For on the last day, Jesus will come again to stand on the earth. And on that day He will raise that voice in a shout of triumph. He will call your body out of the grave. And you will hear Him, and rise from the dead, and go to live with Him forever in heaven to give glory to Him for all ages. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ. Amen.
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