Everyone likes affirmation. Sometimes we spend so much time beating ourselves up that even a small word of affirmation can turn a day completely around. I think this is why we have to remember to offer words of appreciation and admiration as much as we can. You never know the impact those words might have in someone’s life.
When I was a senior in High School, I received the Lion’s Club Outstanding Citizenship Award. It was also given to a boy in my class. My father sat next to his father at the banquet. I was surprised to hear my father talk about me, describing in detail things I had accomplished to this poor man who politely sat and listened. I didn’t know that my father felt that way about me, much less had noticed some of the things he described. I was always sure of his love and support. But hearing these words of affirmation filled me up with such confidence and self-esteem that leaving home in a few months to attend a large out-of-state university somehow seemed more doable than it had before. If I was half as accomplished as the girl he described, I knew I would make it.
There are two moments in Jesus’ life when he received public words of affirmation from his father. The first was at his baptism, when the heavens opened up and God said, “This is my son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
The next is at the Transfiguration:
Mark 9 (The Message)
2-4 Six days later, three of them did see it. Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain. His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. His clothes shimmered, glistening white, whiter than any bleach could make them. Elijah, along with Moses, came into view, in deep conversation with Jesus.
Remember that Mark writes primarily to convince the Jews that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. His brief and to-the-point account of Jesus having a deep conversation with the famed prophets Elijah and Moses was designed in part to hammer home the integrity of Jesus’ messiahship.
Don’t you wonder what they talked about?
Then Peter, being Peter, interrupts.
5-6 Peter interrupted, “Rabbi, this is a great moment! Let’s build three memorials—one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah.” He blurted this out without thinking, stunned as they all were by what they were seeing.
Ahhh, Peter. He is so like us in every way. Have you ever misread a situation and forged ahead with some ill-begotten notion, only to look around you and realize that you were forging in the wrong direction? I have.
7 Just then a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and from deep in the cloud, a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love. Listen to him.”
Here the Father steps in and proclaims for the second time that Jesus is his son, his beloved, marked by his love. But this time the message is more focused: “LISTEN TO HIM.”
8 The next minute the disciples were looking around, rubbing their eyes, seeing nothing but Jesus, only Jesus.
Oh, that we could have that point of view in our lives…to see nothing but Jesus, only Jesus.
9-10 Coming down the mountain, Jesus swore them to secrecy. “Don’t tell a soul what you saw. After the Son of Man rises from the dead, you’re free to talk.” They puzzled over that, wondering what on earth “rising from the dead” meant.
There are two take-always from today’s passage.
The first is a simple reminder of what words of affirmation can do in a person’s life. Think about your own words. Who in your life needs to hear that they are valued, cherished, and important to you? Who is your “beloved” and marked by your love? Do they need to hear that from you? Parents who offer such words to their children and back it up with unconditional love and constant support raise good citizens.
The second take-away is what God says…LISTEN TO HIM.
Are you listening? Are you understanding what Jesus is saying to you today? Is he inviting you to change, correct, cherish, go deeper, or follow him into a calling outside of your comfort zone?
The good father who loves us with the same passion that he loved his son commands us to LISTEN.
What do you hear?