I hear people refer to finding their voice occasionally.
So how does a person find his or her voice? How do you know when you have something to say others need to hear?
Perhaps Simon Peter, the leader of Jesus’ disciples, can help us answer these questions.
The Synoptic gospels describe a retreat Jesus invited three of his disciples to attend, including Peter (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). While Jesus was praying, his appearance dramatically changed.
“His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them,” Mark wrote (Mark 9:3).
Matthew told his readers that Jesus’ face “shone like the sun” (Matthew 17:2).
Suddenly, Jesus was joined by two other men whom the disciples believed to be Moses, the lawgiver, and Elijah, the prophet.
The three of them carried on a conversation, and while we do not know exactly what was said, we know they were discussing Jesus’ “departure,” a reference to his death on the cross.
At some point in the conversation between Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter blurted out what he thought was a brilliant idea.
He offered to build three tents so these men could stay there indefinitely and continue their discussion.
I almost feel sorry for Peter because of what happened next. A cloud descended upon the mountain and a voice interrupted Peter. “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Even Peter got that message and quit talking. As a matter of fact, Peter, along with the other two disciples, fell to the ground out of fear and Peter never spoke again.
Knowing the disciples were traumatized, Matthew tells us Jesus touched them and reassuringly said, “Get up and do not be afraid” (Matthew 17:7).
As they departed the mountain, Jesus ordered them to tell no one about this event until after the resurrection.
My favorite part of this story revolves around Peter who comes across as a bumbling idiot.
“Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
Was he trying to be helpful? Perhaps. Mark said he spoke out of fear and the need to say something, even if it was wrong, which it was (Mark 9:6).
It didn’t take long for Peter to figure out his good idea was not so good after all. Hearing voices in the dark has a way of doing that.
Why do I like this part of the story so much? Who among us hasn’t done what Peter did?
I take great comfort in the leader of Jesus’ disciples getting slammed to the ground because he couldn’t be quiet.
Peter’s time to talk would come, but it was not then. It was time for Peter to go through his own transformation by listening to Jesus. Then he would have something to say people needed to hear.
This story offers an important lesson on knowing when we have something to say other people need to hear and when we don’t.
When you speak, does God proudly say, “This is my child whom I love dearly,” or does God cringe? Do you think God encourages people to listen to you?
Why was God so proud of Jesus and why did God want Peter to listen to him? Jesus knew the heart and nature of God and reflected them in everything he said and did.
Jesus offered an alternative vision for the world, one which valued love over hate, serving over being served, sacrifice over self-indulgence, truth over deception, justice over injustice, inclusion over exclusion, generosity over greed, humility over arrogance, forgiveness over revenge, healing over hurting, and peace over war.
Jesus, like God, was passionate about confronting evil, righting wrong, lifting up the lowly, finding the forgotten, liberating the oppressed, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, comforting the grieving, and loving the unlovely.
He also emphasized encouraging people to achieve their potential, forgiving people who made mistakes, giving people a second chance, teaching people how to live peaceably with one another, and inspiring people to build bridges of goodwill, understanding and reconciliation instead of walls of suspicion and hate.
These were the things Jesus did everywhere he went, and they are the same things God calls us to do. When we do, we’ll find our voices.
This was what Peter needed to learn before he earned the right to speak. It is what we need to learn, also, and I hope we are.
Bob Browning is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky.