One of the more important stories told in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is the story of Jesus’s transfiguration. In the story, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain with him where they encounter Moses and Ellijah talking with Jesus. There are a lot of details in this story but the most important is the fact as a cloud descends upon them, the disciples hear a voice saying, “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” (Mk 9:7, CEB).
God says that Jesus is his Son and that we should listen to him!
Listen to Jesus.
Of course, we understand that we must listen to Jesus. We can’t follow Jesus unless we’re listening to Jesus and we know that. But knowing doesn’t necessarily mean doing. Regardless of our ministry and church context, we need to remember that we must listen to Jesus because we live in a society saturated with many voices. From the news to social media down to the most mundane messages we encounter in the office, at our favorite coffeehouse, etc…, there are many voices vying for our attention.
An important question to raise is how do we listen to Jesus? After all, we don’t have the ability to have a one-to-one conversation or small group conversation with Jesus. In the absence of having Jesus directly speak to us, it’s also easy to tell ourselves we’re listening to Jesus when we actually listening to ourselves or some other voice and just telling ourselves that’s Jesus. So how do we listen to Jesus?
The most obvious way of listening to Jesus is by reading the Bible. Since all scripture testifies about Jesus (Jn 5:39), reading the Bible allows us to listen to Jesus. I also believe we can listen to Jesus when gathered with our church for times of worship, and fellowship. It will take a little more discernment but whether we are listening to a sermon, praying together, or just having a conversation, we just might hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us.
We can also indirectly listen to Jesus in the sort of people we give our attention to as conversation partners. Whether these conversation partners are found in the books we read, the podcasts we listen to, or else, it’s possible to hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us.
We may be even more able to hear the voice of Jesus speak through others if we’re willing to diversify who we read and/or listen to. For example, I love to read and I have a lot of books on my shelf. However, a few years back I had someone ask me how many books were written by people of the majority world or women. As I thought about this I realized that almost every book on my shelf was written by a White man of European descent. Now that’s somewhat to be expected since the majority of the theology of the last several centuries has flowed from Europe to the United States. Nevertheless, since then I have tried making a more conscious effort to read books written by minorities and women.
Listening to Jesus always requires discernment and that happens best with a few others we trust to tell us what we need to hear rather than what we want to hear. Discernment with others helps us avoid the trap of self-deception which is more likely to happen when we are not considerate of what others might say.
So I’ve reminded us that we must listen to Jesus and have shared some ways we can do so. Are there other ways of listening to Jesus? If so, please share in a comment.
K. Rex Butts, D.Min, serves as the lead minister/pastor with the Newark Church of Christ in Newark, DE, and is the author of Gospel Portraits: Reading Scripture as Participants in the Mission of God. Rex holds a Doctor of Ministry in Contextual Theology from Northern Seminary in Lisle, IL, and a Master of Divinity from Harding School of Theology in Memphis, TN. He is married to Laura and together they have three children.