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What is the only command given directly by the Father to the disciples?

Jesus spoke many things during His time on earth, the Father spoke lots to the Israelites, and there are a few specific times the Holy Spirit spoke, but there are only four times in the Gospels that it is recorded that the Father spoke.  (To teach John the Baptist how to recognise Jesus; [John 1:33-34] at Jesus’ baptism; [Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22] on the Mount of Transfiguration; [Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35] and just after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem [John 12:28-29])  Each time He spoke, He endorsed Jesus, but there is only one time that He told anyone to do anything …  It would follow that this is of great importance.

“This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.  Listen to Him.” [Matthew 17:5]

Why is this small verse within the mass of what was spoken within the Gospels and within the whole Bible so significant?

Almost the first words spoken by Jesus in the Gospels, He replied to the devil, saying: “It is written: ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” [Matthew 4:4] Man’s life is in the spoken words that come out of God’s mouth.  While we refer to the Bible as the Word of God (and rightly so, because “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” [2 Timothy 3:16]), contained within all of those words are words that have been recorded as spoken by humans, angels, demons, Satan and by God.  We are told that it is by the words that actually come from the MOUTH of God, spoken by God, that man shall live.

If we have a look through the Bible, we see a picture that reveals the significance of these words.

In Exodus 15, the Israelites have just crossed the Red Sea, delivered by the mighty hand of the Lord, when He drowned the Egyptian army behind them.  Just three days later, the Lord said, If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” [Exodus 15:26]

This is the first time God revealed Himself as “I am the Lord who heals you.” It is preceded by a condition – If you….” In Exodus 20, at Mt Horeb, the Lord first met and spoke to the whole Israelite community and gave them the Ten Commandments.  The Israelites were afraid of the Lord and refused to listen to His voice, choosing instead for Moses to listen to the Lord and then tell the Israelites what He said. [Exodus 20:19] Although they promised to obey, they were not even able to keep the first command (which they did hear from the mouth of God for themselves [Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 5:22]) for 40 days while Moses was getting a few basic guidelines for living and instructions for the tabernacle.

For the Israelites, the Lord adds a longer and longer list of conditions to this as they continued to grumble, complain and disobey Him.  This is the Levitical Law, or Law of Moses.  The rewards are dependant upon following the Lord’s decrees and obeying His commands. [Leviticus 26:3] The Lord said, “But if you will not listen to Me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject My decrees and abhor My laws and fail to carry out all My commands and so violate My covenant, then I will do this to you:….” [Leviticus 26:14-16] He repeats these conditions in verses 18, 21, 23 and 27.  So the punishments come as the result of not listening to His voice and being obedient. The history of the nation of Israel bears witness to the generosity of God’s blessings for obedience and the severity of God’s hand on a disobedient people.

Moses prophesied about the Prophet (Jesus). [Deuteronomy 18:14-20] He said, “The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination.  But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so. The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers.  You must listen to Him. For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this anymore, or we will die.”  The LORD said to me: “What they say is good.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.  If anyone does not listen to My words that the prophet speaks in My Name, I Myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in My Name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.” ”

Jesus Himself bore witness to the fact that He speaks the words of His Father.  Jesus gave them (the Jews who wanted to kill Him) this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” [John 5:19]“My teaching is not My own.  It comes from Him who sent Me.” [John 7:16] “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the One I claim to be and that I do nothing on My own but speak just what the Father has taught Me. The One who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” [John 8:28-29]“For I did not speak of My own accord, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it.  I know that His command leads to eternal life.  So whatever I say is just what the Father has told Me to say. [John 12:49-50] At the last supper, Jesus said to His disciples, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me? The words I say to you are not just My own.  Rather, it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing His work.” [John 14:10] “He who does not love Me does not obey My teaching. These words you hear are not My own; they belong to My Father who sent Me.” [John 14:24]

Jesus also confirmed the need for the command to “Listen to Him”, when He stated, “The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep.  The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” [John 10:2-5] He goes on to state that He is the Gate and the Good Shepherd.  We learn to recognise Jesus’ voice by a continuing practice of reading His words and taking the time to listen to Him.

Mary, sister of Martha, was commended as having chosen the better thing when she chose to sit at His feet and listen to Jesus. [Luke 10:38-42] It is also significant that she was the only one who knew that Jesus’ death was near, as she anointed His body for burial before His crucifixion. [Matthew 26:10-13, John 12:1-8] She was listening to Him and heard what He had been saying about His death, so she was able to do something exceptional for Him.  This act was so loving and significant that Jesus Himself commended her for it, saying, “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” [Matthew 26:13]

Let us take a closer look at the Mount of Transfiguration. [Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, Luke 9:28-36] The circumstances tell us a lot.  Those present were Jesus with Peter, James and John, the three closest of His twelve disciples.  Then Moses and Elijah, two of the greatest men of the Old Testament, arrived and were speaking with Jesus about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. [Luke 9:31] While they were all there, a bright cloud came and enveloped them, and the Father spoke to them from the cloud, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.  Listen to Him.” [Matthew 17:5] This one statement from God the Father contains both a decree: “This is My Son, whom I love” and a command: Listen to Him.” It was given to the three closest disciples, two of whom would be instrumental in building Jesus’ church after He had ascended.  It is interesting to note that the Father made no mention of listening to Moses (and the Law) or Elijah (and the prophets), and He did not instruct the three disciples to listen to each other, or to discuss amongst themselves what they thought about what Jesus said (or about anything else, for that matter!)  The command is so simple and small that it has been forgotten and largely overlooked as the ONLY thing the Father requires of us as Christians/disciples/children of God, living under the New Covenant.  There is a real exclusiveness about this. Jesus’ words are the plumb-line by which we measure every other word because He is the Truth, speaking the truth.

Of course, to listen to Jesus exclusively, we must first believe in Him.  Listening to Jesus is the first work of our faith in Him.  Putting His words into practice [Matthew 7:24] is the completion of the work.

Paul understood the uselessness of trying to follow the Law.  Romans chapters 2 to 8 contain a comprehensive study on how the Law was never meant to put us right with God – its purpose was to identify sin for what it is.  Once sin is identified, it can then be addressed.  This is what was achieved as a gift to us through Jesus.  “The law was added so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” [Romans 5:20-21]

So why has the church not listened to and followed the words of Jesus exclusively?  Why is the church still following parts of the Old Covenant given to the Israelites through Moses?  Or mixing it with the teachings of the Apostles, which at times conflict with the words of Jesus?  (E.g. Compare Acts 15:19-20 with Mark 7:18-19)  It is because this command, as small as it is, was lost to the disciples and therefore, lost to the church.  Perhaps if the command were a few pages long, we would have noticed it and followed it…  When praying to the Father just before His trial and crucifixion, Jesus said,“For I gave them the words You gave Me and they accepted them.  They knew with certainty that I came from You, and they believed that You sent Me.” [John 17:8] So the disciples did receive Jesus’ words, but appear to forget the Father’s only command to them.

It is interesting to note that Peter remembered what Moses said about listening to Jesus – For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything He tells you.  Anyone who does not listen to Him will be completely cut off from among His people.’ [Acts 3:22-23] However, by the time Peter wrote his second letter, he appears to have forgotten this command that he heard from the Father.  He wrote of God the Father speaking on the Mount of Transfiguration, but failed to mention His last three words, “Listen to Him.” For He (Jesus) received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying,“This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain. [2 Peter 1:17-18] The command is not mentioned during any of the sermons after Acts 3 or in any of the letters written by the Apostles.  (And in Acts 3, it is not credited to God the Father.)  However, the Holy Spirit ensured that it was well recorded in three of the four Gospels, so that it would not be completely lost forever.

So, what is the only command given by God the Father directly to the disciples of Jesus, and therefore to the church of Jesus?  “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” [Matthew 17:5]“This is My Son, whom I love. Listen to Him! [Mark 9:7] “This is My Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.” [Luke 9:35]

(“Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor” are part of the Old Testament Law, and were first given to the Israelites.  “Love your enemies” and “Love one another” were given by Jesus, not by the Father.  All of these were restated/stated by Jesus also, and apply to us because we are to listen to Jesus!)

So let’s look at a few of the key things that Jesus said:

1.  Listen to His words and put them into practice.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” [Matthew 7:24-27]

The wise man is wise not because he loves Jesus or believes in Him, but because he hears Jesus’ words and puts them into practice.  The foolish man may even be a believer, but because he hears the words and does not put them into practice, his house is built on sand and will fall.

The rock in this case is the practice of Jesus’ words.

2.  Follow Jesus (and don’t worry about what He wants anyone else to do for Him!)

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them.  (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray You?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”  Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?  You must follow Me.” [John 21:20-22]

In other words, don’t worry about what Jesus wants anyone else to do for Him – you just need to follow Jesus and be obedient to what He has called you to do!

3.  Individually, and corporately as a church, we need to be listening to the Holy Spirit

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” [Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:29, 3:6, 3:13, 3:22]

We must learn to recognise the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” [John 14:26] Our practice in listening to the Holy Spirit begins through learning to recognise the voice that reminds us of the words of Jesus.  When words that Jesus spoke come to our mind, listen to the voice that is prompting them – this is the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ words are like the Holy Spirit introducing Himself.  As we become more familiar with His voice, He will not always need to begin with a formal introduction, just as a good friend calling on the phone doesn’t always need to introduce themselves formally, because we know their voice.  The Holy Spirit continues to speak what He hears, just as Jesus did, and so the continued practice of listening is essential.  “But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.  He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.” [John 16:13] Then, just like Mary, we will know what is to come as we listen, and be able to prepare for Jesus’ next major event – His return as King!

Of course, there are many more things that Jesus said, and it is up to us to search out the words spoken by Jesus in the Gospels for ourselves and put them into practice.  “All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” [John 14:25-26] Allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in teaching you and reminding you of the words Jesus spoke.

Listen To Jesus!!!

P.S.  Almost the first words spoken by Jesus in the Gospels, He replied to the devil, saying: “It is written: ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” [Matthew 4:4] Man’s life is in the spoken words that come out of God’s mouth.

A powerful way of understanding and experiencing the truth and power of this statement:

Get a Bible and read it straight through, without stopping at each chapter or section, and highlight every word spoken by the Lord (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) right through the Bible.  Read the New Testament first and then the Old Testament.  The purpose of this is to differentiate the words from the mouth of the Lord, which are our truth and life, from the rest of the words, which are a truthful account, as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Reading straight through and highlighting the Lord’s words gives a deeper insight to see how They speak, think, feel and work on a very personal level, which allows us to know Them so much more.  “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” [John 17:3]

If this is your first time reading through the Bible, don’t try to make sense of everything you read because there are many passages that don’t make sense until you know the rest of the Bible.  Just write down your questions and keep reading.  The answers will often come as you read other passages, and as the Holy Spirit teaches you.  In the meantime, ask the Holy Spirit, and He will teach you what you need to know and are ready to understand as you read right now.

If you aim to read approximately twelve chapters a day, you will complete the Bible in three months!  The highlighting is also a good way to keep you moving, when you might otherwise have stopped in certain passages.  Doing this means you can read the whole Bible more than once a year, and gives a more complete picture of the story and events of the Bible.  (This has transformed my life!!!)

Doing this also begins the process of moving into a place where we are not in error.  Jesus said to the Sadducees, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” [Matthew 22:29] Sadly, many Christians are in error for the same reasons.

Fall in love with the Scriptures, and especially the words the Lord spoke.  Get a hunger and passion for them – they are your life!

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NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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