Listening (Matthew 17:1-9)


But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said,
“This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.”
(v5 NLT)

When I was a child we used to play a game called ‘Simon Says’. To play the game, one person, who played the role of ‘Simon’, would call out instructions beginning with ‘Simon says’ and everyone else would need to do what ‘Simon’ told them to do. Occasionally, the caller would give an instruction without saying ‘Simon says’ and if a participant did the action, that person was out of the game.

I know that there are dangers with using a game like ‘Simon Says’ as an illustration of being followers of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t just give us instructions in life, and then exclude us if we get it wrong. My reason for using Simon Says as an example of being Jesus’ disciple is that it highlights the importance of listening to the person who is leading us.

When Jesus led Peter, James and John up the mountain to witness his transfiguration, God’s voice identified Jesus as his Son whom he loved and with whom he was pleased (v5 NIV). We have already heard these words in Matthew’s gospel at Jesus’ baptism. However, Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell us that the voice from heaven added the words, ‘Listen to him.’ The Transfiguration of Jesus gives us insight into one of the most important aspects of being a disciple of Jesus – listening to him.

Listening to Jesus is essential if we are to listen to him. How can we follow someone if we are not listening to where that person is leading us? In the example of the game of Simon Says, how can we follow what the leader’s instructions if we are not paying attention to that person is saying? If we are to be faithful followers of Jesus, we need to be listening to his voice so we can follow him and learn from him.

While there are some different ideas about how to hear God’s voice, in the end we hear the voice of Jesus most clearly when we listen to what he has said to us in Scripture. The Bible is the most reliable source of Jesus’ teachings that we have. As Hebrews 1:1,2a says,
Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.

These words point to Jesus being the living Word of God, as John does at the start of his gospel, and the voice of God in the world. If we are going to follow Jesus, we need to be listening to him, and the clearest place we find what Jesus says is in the words of the Bible.
However, it is easy to misunderstand what another person is saying to us, as most of us would probably know. The same happens with listening to Jesus in the Bible. That is why the Bible itself teaches us how to listen for Jesus’ voice. For example, John 1:17 says, ‘the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’ (NIV). John is telling us that if we are to hear Jesus’ voice, we need to be listening not only for what he is telling us to do, but for what Jesus has done, is doing and will do for us. If he is just telling us what to do, his teachings are law, and that was Moses’ job. However, John tells us that Jesus came to bring us grace and truth. The art of listening to Jesus’ voice, then is to listen to his words for the truth of his grace. In other words, listening to Jesus as his disciples means learning to listen for what he wants to do for us.

When we do that, we can hear Jesus say words such as:

‘The Kingdom of Heaven is near.’ (Matthew 4:17)
‘You will be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ (Matt 5:48)
‘Take heart … your sins are forgiven.’ (Matt 9:2)
‘I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ (Matt 9:13)
‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ (Matt 11:28)
‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matt 28:20b)

Jesus’ disciples knew that he has ‘the words that give eternal life’ (John 6:68) and so they listened to him as they followed him and learned from him. As Jesus’ disciples we also need to listen to him so we can follow him and grow in the life he gives us as we learn from him. So today, I’m thinking that,

Discipleship is… listening to Jesus and learning to live in his way.

To help us learn the art of listening to Jesus, during the season of Lent I would like to challenge us all to read through the gospel of Matthew, one chapter a day. As we do, I am offering this booklet (exploring-discipleship-in-matthew) with some guiding questions to help us hear what Jesus teaches us about being his disciples. This booklet can be used by individuals or small groups, and will be the basis of our congregation’s Lent devotions as we journey towards Easter.

Like playing a game of Simon Says, we need to be listening to Jesus if we are going to live as his disciples. Unlike a game of Simon Says, however, Jesus doesn’t just give us instructions or tell us what to do. Through the Spirit of the Living God, Jesus’ words breathe grace and truth into our lives. Through them he gives us a new life to live as his disciples, and the grace of God to be his salt and light in the world.

Are you listening to Jesus?

More to think about:

  • Do you think it is important for Jesus’ followers to listen to him? Why?
  • How often do you read your Bible?
  • Do you find it easy or difficult to read your Bible? Explain why.
  • Would it be easier for you to read your Bible on your own or with others? Can you explain why?
  • How might it help you read your Bible if you thought of it as an important way for Jesus to speak life-giving grace and truth to you? How can we help you to learn the art of hearing God’s grace in the words of the Bible?

7 thoughts on “Listening (Matthew 17:1-9)

  1. Are you listening to the voice of Jesus speak for himself about what is Most Important?
    It’s not “Love” without God – that is the Beatles speaking – or Paul…..

    Poem – What is love?

    Two men came to Jesus
    With different motivations.
    They asked Him the same question
    Relevant to all the nations:

    Which is the Most Important?
    The answer was the same.
    Jesus did not manipulate
    He was not there to play a game.

    “Love the Lord your God” said Jesus
    as He quoted from The Law –
    to fulfill and not abolish
    was His purpose, full of awe.

    Jesus did not make all Scripture
    Into one new great commandment.
    He summarized The Law and Prophets
    “First and Greatest” and “The Second.”

    The Love of God is higher
    Than the love of any man.
    Receive from God, give back to God-
    Then to others, that’s His plan.

    The Love of God involves much more
    Than simply “love your fellow man.”
    Worship, trust, and pray to God,
    and obey Him – that’s His plan

    To worship and pray to neighbors,
    Whoever they may be,
    Or trust and obey our enemies
    Would be idolatry.

    The love of God is first and greatest,
    And the love of man is second.
    “All we need is love” are words
    of dead Beetles on the pavement.

    “The entire law is summed up in a single command”
    are not the words of Jesus our Salvation.
    It’s false teaching of Paul the Pharisee
    an “accuser of our brethren.”

    “Love” without God is Satan’s word through Paul
    in his chapter to the Corinthians.
    “I will show you the most excellent way”
    is the road to eternal perdition.

    Where is God in Paul’s chapter on love?
    Nowhere in view of the eye.
    Paul sings about himself like a Mexican Mariachi
    “I, I, I, I.”

    Jesus is The Most Excellent Way
    Not the words of a Pharisee.
    The words of Jesus are very clear.
    Jesus said, “You must follow ME.”


    • Good point Matthew – thanks for your comment. I love the Beatles’ music but agree that their view of love is seriously flawed. When I refer to Love in my posts I always have 1 John 4:7-21 & 1 Corinthians 13 in mind. Agape love is always the best kind of love. Blessings to you 🙂


      • Eugene, my point was that Paul taught “Love” without God just like the Beatles.
        God is missing from 1 Corinthians 13 – but Paul referred to himself in this chapter almost 20 times….
        Paul’s teaching contradicted Jesus in Galatians 5:14 and Romans 13:8-10 – see Matthew 22 and Mark 12. Compare for yourself ! Jesus is The Way, not Paul’s false teaching.


      • I’m going to disagree with you Matthew – Paul doesn’t contradict Jesus; he’s applying the teachings of Jesus to specific situations & focuses on one particular aspect of Jesus’ Way that apply to those circumstances. It’s about context, not contradiction.


      • Parable of the House Painters

        A homeowner called his friend, who was a painting contractor. “Friend, I want to hire you and your team to paint my house and my garage. Paint the house first, and I’ll stay in the garage until you’re done. Then when the paint is dry, I’ll move back into the house, and you can paint the garage.”

        The painting contractor hired a new foreman named Paul, and gave him the homeowner’s instructions. (Paul insisted that all the workers show respect for him by addressing him as “Boss Paul.”) Paul called the team of painters together and told them:
        “Boys, we need to paint this garage and house. The quicker we do it, the more profitable it is for us. So get to work! Since the garage is smaller, we can finish that quicker. Then those who finished the garage can go help the others finish the house.”

        One worker objected: “But Boss Paul, those were not the owner’s instructions! We are supposed to paint the house first. Only after the house is finished and the paint is dry can we go and paint the garage.”

        Paul replied: “I’m Boss, you work for me, and you do as I say. We are painters, and we paint. We don’t have time for debates about ‘which one is first’. We need to get to work applying that paint to the garage and house as quick as we can. Which owner would be upset if we finished early? The job is to paint the garage and house – what difference does it make ‘which one is first’”?

        “It makes a big difference to the owner,” the worker objected. To which Paul replied, “you’re fired.” Paul then took his team of painters, and started painting the garage and the house.

        When the homeowner returned in the evening, he was furious. He had nowhere to sleep, and had to go stay in a hotel for several days. The homeowner’s friend, the painting contractor, apologized, and explained:

        “I hired a new foreman named Paul, but that was a huge mistake. He ignored your instructions that I passed on to him. You don’t know him, and I’ve just barely met him.
        To be extremely polite, I could say that Paul ‘says some things which are difficult to understand.’ To be more direct, I could say Paul talks like an arrogant megalomaniac with a messiah complex, proclaiming; ‘I am not under the law’ but yet making up his own laws as he goes along, that everyone else has to obey. Paul said: ‘I became your father…. therefore I urge you to imitate me,’ and ‘I have become all things to all men.’ Paul thinks he’s Boss, and doesn’t need to listen to your instructions that I gave him.”

        In Matthew 22 and Mark 12, Jesus identified two commandments, saying one of them is the first and greatest most important one. Which one is it? The one in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, or the one in Leviticus 19:18 ?


      • I’m not going to get into an argument about Jesus vs Paul because there is no conflict. The command to love God & love others are the 2 sides of the same coin & both have equal weight when taken together (Matt 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28). And then John gives us Jesus’ ‘new command’ (John 13:34,35; 1 John 2:3-7) which is saying the same thing in a different way. So there is no contradiction, just different perspectives of the same truth…


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