Thursday, January 28, 2016

Transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-21)

“We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this Transfiguration of our Lord comes from the epistle lesson read a few moments ago from the first chapter of Saint Peter’s second letter. Dear friends in Christ, the Bible is no mere story. The Bible is no myth. The Bible is truth, it doesn’t just contain truth; the Bible tells us about the only true God and how He has interacted with His people in history, in time and space. Genesis one doesn’t give us a parable about God’s creation, it is the authoritative account of God’s creation. Jonah isn’t simply a story to teach us not to run away from God, it is a true account of how God actually saved a man with a whale, then used him to drive the people of Nineveh to repentance. Three men in a furnace, Daniel in the lion’s den, the crossing of the Red Sea, the fire from heaven consuming Elijah’s sacrifice, water from the rock—these are not simply stories to illustrate a point, they are the true accounts of how God intervened in history for the good of His people. The so-called ‘experts’ call them myths, even Christian authors and pastors explain them away in embarrassment, but they are not stories, they are not myths. What the Bible gives us is the truth, the only truth that can set you free: God has intervened in history for your eternal salvation.

Peter saw; Peter heard. He didn’t concoct a good story, he didn’t follow one created by others. He heard the whisperings, the accusations: ‘Virgins don’t have children.’ ‘People don’t rise from the dead.’ ‘No one could ever feed five thousand people with a few loaves.’ The world thought the disciples were crazy, following some insane ramblings by a dirt-poor rabbi, then making up a story of resurrection when their leader was foolish enough to get himself killed. But Peter knew better. He was on the mountain, the mountain of Transfiguration, the mountain where the Creator of the universe made all things quite clear. “When He received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”

He saw the glory with his very own eyes; he heard the very voice of God Himself point to this Jesus and call Him His own beloved Son. He didn’t make it up; he didn’t follow the stories given by others. Peter saw; Peter heard. “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” The glory of Jesus is no myth, it is no story. Peter saw; Peter heard. The glory of Jesus is reality, right before his eyes. Mythmakers have been around almost as long as man, but what Peter heard and saw was no myth. Or maybe we could say that it was the true myth; the truth that all myth is searching for and pointing toward. He saw with his own eyes and heard with his own ears what the storytellers could only dream of: God in the flesh.

However clever Peter may have been, he did not come up with this on his own; it could only be revealed to him. The true myth that God is standing among us in the flesh cannot be devised by the mind of any man. “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Peter saw, Peter heard, and now Peter speaks. That is the task of an eyewitness—to see something and then tell others what he has seen. An eyewitness doesn’t give his own opinion; he doesn’t make something up. An eyewitness sees and speaks. And what Peter has seen he speaks: the glory of Jesus is no myth, this man is true God, the only begotten Son of the Father.

You and I are not eyewitnesses; we were not on the mountain that day. But we are not for that reason to be pitied. “We have something more sure, the prophetic Word, to which you will do well to pay attention.” We have been given the Scriptures, the recorded words of those who were carried along by the Holy Spirit, inspired to write both the words of God to His people and the accounts of His deeds in history. The Transfiguration confirms the Scriptures; the presence of Moses and Elijah on the mountain declares that this Jesus is the One who has come in accordance with the Scriptures, as the One who has come to fulfill them. Because of the Transfiguration, because this Jesus was glorified and pointed to as the Son of the Father, we can believe both those who pointed forward to Christ and those who point back to Him. We are not to be pitied; the Scriptures give us Jesus, as sure as if we had seen Him ourselves.

“We have something more sure, the prophetic Word, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” The Scriptures are our light in the darkness of this sinful, corrupted world. All around us is error, temptation, sin, and death. In the wilderness, the darkness of human wisdom, of doubt, of trust in ourselves surrounds us. The world wants you to walk in the darkness, it wants you to doubt God’s existence or His goodness, to deny His great deeds in history. But all they offer you in return for abandoning the Scriptures is a shaky foundation based on human reason that shifts as the sand. Only the Scriptures stand firm, immovable, unchanging; only they can shine like a lamp in the darkness of this world. The Scriptures shine the light, the light that we need, the only light that can overcome the darkness that suffocates us.  

The Scriptures shine the light because they proclaim the One who is the Light, the One whose face and garments shone on the mountain, Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. “And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light.” Jesus is the Light, the Light that has come into this world of darkness to shine in our midst. He is the lamp shining in a dark place, He is the bright morning star. Through Him God created light, and thus He comes to reveal the light, to shine it forth in the darkness of your sinful heart. “We have something more sure, the prophetic Word, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart.” That is the light the Scriptures shine, the light of Christ, the Light that Peter saw with his own eyes on the mountain of Transfiguration.

Peter wanted to bask in that Light; he wanted to remain in that glory, but he couldn’t stay. Jesus told Peter, James, and John, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” The glory of that mountain was only a taste, only a glimpse, of the glory that was to come. But it was more than that, it was the guarantee, the promise of the glory that was yet to be. Jesus went down that mountain to walk the dark and deadly road of the cross, but the Transfiguration promised Him, as it promised Peter, James, and John, that there was glory on the other side, that the very One who was nailed to the cross was the beloved Son of the Father, who kept hidden the glory that He had from eternity. The promise of the Transfiguration is the promise of Easter, that having laid down His life as a sacrifice for sin, for your sin, Jesus would take up His life again in glory. And the same eyewitnesses that saw Jesus’ glory on the mountain of Transfiguration would see His glory as He rose triumphant over death.

But that is by no means the end of the glory that is to come. The Transfiguration is the promise that Christ will return in glory, the very glory He showed forth on that mountain, the very glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. He is the bright morning star; His appearance will be the sign that the Day has come. He is the sunrise that inaugurates a Day that will never end. And when that Day comes He will give you glory, the glory that He won for you by following the dark road of the cross to the bright rays of the empty tomb. The Transfiguration is the promise, the sure and certain guarantee, that you will be raised up in glory when He returns, that although you now walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there is unspeakable glory ahead.

Peter isn’t just telling stories; this is no cleverly devised myth. He saw with his own eyes the glory that lies ahead for Jesus, for himself, and for you. But not yet. Peter had to travel down the mountain with Jesus, he had to follow his Lord to the cross. Even after Christ’s resurrection, Peter had his own cross awaiting him. But in the midst of trial and tribulation, as he looked to Christ’s cross and awaited his own, Peter was comforted by the glimpse of glory he saw on that mountain. He had the privilege to see the glory that belonged to Christ from eternity, the glory that would belong to all believers on the Last Day. That is the glory that Peter proclaims to you in the pages of the Scriptures. He saw, he heard, and now he speaks, and that Word, as with all the Scriptures, will endure until Jesus returns again. “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is no story; it is no myth. It is as sure as the vision that Peter, James, and John were privileged to see, as sure as the resurrection of Jesus. There are no cleverly devised stories here, just a crucified and risen Jesus, the same Jesus who will return in glory when time comes to an end. He is the bright morning star, the star that anticipates the dawn. When you see Him returning on the clouds, with Moses, Elijah, Jonah, Peter, and all the saints, you will be raised up just as surely as Christ was. His resurrection was no myth, and neither will yours be. Until that Day, you are sustained by the vision recounted to you this day by an eyewitness; Peter saw, Peter heard, and Peter has told you of the glory that is Christ’s and will be yours, when the day dawns, when the morning star rises, never to set again. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

No comments: