And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.Mark 9:7-8
This event displays the second time readers of Mark’s Gospel have witnessed a voice exclaim that Jesus is God’s beloved Son (see Mark 1:11). Both accounts affirm that Jesus is the Son of God, but God speaks directly to Jesus in the first account and in the second, God speaks to those in the attendance at the transfiguration–Peter, James, and John. Nevertheless, in both instances we have God the Father verbally affirming that Jesus Christ is his Son.
The Father’s Voice
Some might ask, “How do we know this is God the Father’s voice?” The text does not identify the one speaking explicitly, but the context surrounding the voice makes us infer that this voice is indeed God’s. At the beginning of verse 7, we see the words, “And a cloud overshadowed them.” In other words, the cloud covers the mountain before the words are heard. Again, Mark, under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wants us to connect this event with Exodus 24.
Exodus 24:15 reads, “Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.” What’s the significance of the cloud in Exodus 24:15? The next sentence reads, “The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called Moses out of the midst of the cloud” (Ex. 24:16). The cloud seems to symbolize the glory of the Lord on display in both events. Both experiences reveal that the glory of the Lord comes before the voice of God. God’s presence, understood by his glory, validates the words he is about to say.
The Glory of God
God’s glory is extremely difficult to define. While we may not be able to fully define what God’s glory is or all that it entails, perhaps we can recognize some aspects of it as we read Scripture and experience God in our own lives through his Holy Spirit. John Piper compares defining God’s glory to defining beauty. A person can say something is beautiful by pointing at a work of art that they perceive to be beautiful, but defining what beauty is becomes more complicated (Piper, Desiring God, 42). The same is true of God’s glory. Nevertheless, Piper’s definition proves to be extremely helpful. He defines God’s glory as “a reality of [God’s] infinite greatness and worth” (Piper, Desiring God, 42). Thus, the cloud covering displays God’s infinite greatness and worth before the disciples hear, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
This event would be imprinted on these three disciples’ hearts and minds for the rest of their days, and through their eyes it should do the same to us. Think of it in human terminology. I remember holding our children after they were born. As I took these precious gifts into my arms, I would look upon them with affectionate love and say, “Hi (insert child’s name), you are my child and I love you!” Notice that this statement and the statement of God the Father have both a possessive and definitive component. “You are mine” is a possessive statement, and “I love you because you are my child” is definitive. God the Father indicates this same truth to these three disciples because Jesus already knows this to be true.
God ends his verbal affirmation with the words, “listen to him.” The Greek word for “listen” means more than simply just to hear the words, but also conveys that they are to listen and obey the words of Jesus. We all have experiences where we have heard words, but did not obey them. Think of it like this. Your child is watching television. You call their name and tell them to go brush their teeth. They hear your words in their ears, but their minds are not comprehending what you are saying because they are focused on something else. In other words, they are “hearing” without “listening” because your words are not moving them to obedience.
God’s voice affirms that Jesus is the Son of God, which should cause all of us to listen. When we listen to God’s call through his Holy Spirit two things will occur: belief and obedience. The Apostle Paul confirms, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free [in Christ] from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). God sets us free through faith in his Son, and in so doing, he moves us to listen and obey.
Are You Listening?
God’s verbal affirmation that Jesus Christ is his beloved Son who came to live the life we couldn’t, die the death we deserved, and victoriously rise from the dead to prove that his work is sufficient for salvation, will forgive you of sin and change your life. Your belief in the fullness of who Christ is and what he did for you will open the ears of your heart and soul to follow him wherever he calls you to go and do whatever he tells you to do. Listen once again to God’s words about Jesus, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” Believe in God’s words, and watch the Holy Spirit change your life forever.
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