When Silence Is Golden

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (Matt. 17:5)  

Jesus’ ministry was approaching a decisive period. Matthew, one of the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), tells us that Jesus led Peter, James, and John up a high mountain, apart, by themselves (Matt. 17:1), and that he was transfigured and became radiant.  The “high mountain” is not identified, and Jesus did not disclose the purpose of the separation/isolation. 

This awesome occasion — Jesus praying (Luke 9:29), Jesus’ appearance with his clothes transformed (Luke 9:29), the appearance of Elijah and Moses (representatives of the O.T. Prophets and Law respectively) (Mark 9: 4), the conversation between Moses, Elijah, and Jesus (Matt. 17:4) — should have constrained the disciples to be silent, observant, attentive, and listening.

However, Peter could not be silent. He thought the moment was worth capturing and wanted to concretize it by erecting three dwellings: “one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Matt. 17:4). Mark’s explanation is that Peter did not know what to say because he was frightened (Mark 9: 6), and Luke says he was drowsy (Luke 9:32). What happened next was, in human terms, as if God were saying, “Peter, shut up and listen!”

The text tells us that Peter’s speech and train of thought was rudely disrupted. “While he was still speaking … a voice said, “This is my Son … listen to him!” (Matt. 17:5; Luke 9:34). This was an occasion for God to speak. This was an occasion when silence was golden. The disciples must listen.

One of the important principles in life is to know when to speak and when to listen; when to be silent. Unfortunately, sometimes we are afraid of silence, or we are easily distracted in silence, or we are so overwhelmed by the moment that we feel we must find something to say, even if it is inappropriate.

Can you recall an occasion when you spoke, and on conclusion you wished you could have taken back every word? Or you felt diminished because what you said was inappropriate or ill-informed? Friends, a question can be bad, but pardonable. However, a statement embroidered and seasoned with self-confidence, pride, and arrogance can leave us devastated.

Prov. 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but the prudent are restrained in speech.” Yes! sometimes it is better not to say anything, but rather, to just listen.

Someone once said: “God gave us two ears and one mouth, which suggests we must listen twice as much as we speak.” That is valuable advice. It is not every time we see or encounter something that we must be quick to speak. If we are to speak, the right time to speak will come. Furthermore, sometimes we need to think long and hard before we speak. Sometimes we must be silent.

Let us cultivate the virtue of silence. It can be invaluable.

Thought:        Keeping one’s mouth shut is a great virtue.

Prayer Focus:  Ask God to help us to be more ready to listen than to speak.