2 Peter 1:16-21
A Word of Jesus
v.19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place…
Dear friends in Christ, we have come to the close of this year's relatively brief season of Epiphany. Today we celebrate the festival of the Transfiguration of Our Lord—that special day that marks both the end and the high point of Epiphany. For Epiphany is about the revelation of Christ to the world—that He is the only begotten Son of the Father come from heaven—filled with grace and truth—He who has all glory and splendor and might. On this day, we remember with joy when Jesus took His three closest disciples: Peter, James, and John with Him up onto a mountain—and was there transfigured before them in glory—the veil covering the incredible glory of the Second Person of the Trinity was lifted ever so slightly—and those three disciples were blessed to glimpse the awesome splendor of the Son of God.
It is this very event that St. Peter is recalling in our text for today. He is talking about this event to reassure his readers in the early Christian church that the things reported to them by the apostles were not clever myths or fairy tales, such as was common among the ancient Greeks and Romans of the day. The story of Jesus—though filled with wonder and miracles—is no mythic legend like Hercules or Odysseus. No indeed, the things written by the apostles come from eyewitness and earwitness testimony. From those who actually saw and heard the things described: who watched as Jesus raised the dead and healed the sick; who heard the power and authority of His great teaching; who saw Him walk on water, cast out demons; and who even saw His true glory shine forth on the mountaintop.
Indeed, Peter writes, "we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For 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." Peter saw the events described. He heard the words proclaimed. And Peter would continue preaching and teaching this message of salvation in Christ Jesus though it was very unpopular. Indeed, Peter and the other apostles would receive beatings, imprisonments, and even death for proclaiming Jesus as the only Son of the Father. Peter would eventually be crucified upside down, and so die a horrible death, rather than take back anything that he had preached and taught about the Lord Jesus.
Why? Well, because it was true. It was all true. And the Father, speaking from the majestic cloud on that mountaintop said very clearly Jesus is His Son, and that all people must listen to Him. Indeed, beloved, this is what the Christian church is STILL preaching and teaching—thousands of years later—Jesus Christ crucified for sinners. Now, this doesn't sound very exciting or look very flashy. The heart of the Christian message is that a Jewish carpenter-turned-preacher was arrested and crucified by the Roman authorities. And that after three days He rose again from the dead, proving that He was indeed the Son of God—indeed, God in the flesh—and that by His death and resurrection sin has been forgiven and death has been destroyed.
You might think that after 2000 years this message would get old—that people would get bored with it. This is always a danger for the church—to seek something new, more relevant. We can easily get distracted by important side issues, like marriage, sanctity of life, the environment, etc. Yet, in the end, all of these other issues get their support from the central message of Christianity—Jesus crucified for sinners. Because of what He came to do for the sin-filled world, this is why He has been given all glory and authority from the Father—and why we should listen to Him about every issue, no matter how small it may seem.
Yet, truly, what could be more relevant than God come in human flesh to save us from our sin? Look around you! See the darkness of this world—a world broken by sin—filled with horrors of natural disasters, pandemics, pain and suffering. A world in which we may face persecution from our government or big businesses, family or friends, simply for proclaiming Jesus. And if all that weren't enough, just take a look inside of you! See the darkness of your own flesh and soul corrupted by sin. Honestly examine your life and your heart in light of God's clear Word of Law (the 10 Commandments) and see how you have sinned in thought, word, and deed, every hour of every day.
In the light of these things that make our consciences tremble with fear, what greater news could be proclaimed to a hurting world—to suffering people—than that of a Savior from it all? He who is the brilliant light—the morning star arising in your hearts—shining in the darkness—driving it away with His powerful Word—as a lamp when turned on scatters the darkness from the room. For this brilliant word of God gives us Jesus who is the Light of the world. He is the One about whom all the prophets and apostles have written and preached. It is Jesus who is the answer to the darkness of despair that seeks to overwhelm you—be it the injustice and evil abundant in the world—or the guilt and shame you feel in your own heart because of your own manifold sins. Jesus' blood and righteousness covers it all. Jesus drives away the fear, the guilt, the death by the power of His own suffering and death in your place on the cross.
The Word of God that has come to you has been proclaimed from the earliest prophets: Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Elijah to the apostles: Peter, James, John, and the others. These men spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit, meaning they didn't just make this stuff up. God spoke to them—inspired them with His Spirit to write the words they wrote. What did they speak? Or better yet, of Whom did they speak? From Adam to Peter and all the others between—they spoke of Jesus. The Old Testament prophets pointed ahead to the One promised of old who would come to undo the work of the devil—indeed, to crush the serpent's head. The apostles pointed back to the One who had come—whose birth angels announced—who was anointed with the Holy Spirit—who taught the Word of God in all its fullness with an authority never before seen—who would offer up His life on the cross as a ransom for many—for sinners like you and me—Jesus.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. It's all about Jesus. The entire Bible from start to finish is about One person—Jesus, the Christ, the eternal Son of God, come to save His people from their sins and from everlasting death and the power of the devil. This Jesus has done. This is why He came. To go to the cross. To suffer and die. Yes, Jesus' heel would be bruised—He would die—but by doing so He would forever crush the head of the serpent—break and destroy every evil work of the devil. For by Jesus' innocent suffering and death on the cross in our place, He would usher in forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation for all who believe and trust in Him. For He has been victorious over our greatest enemies, as is evidenced by His glorious resurrection—another event to which St. Peter and hundreds of others were eyewitnesses.
This is why we remember and celebrate this day with such joy and gladness. For though Jesus would be openly glorified before Peter, James, and John on the mountain, yet when He descended from the mountain, He would set His face toward Jerusalem—and the cross. It would be there on the cross that Jesus would earn all glory, power, and majesty by giving up His very body into death—shedding His innocent blood—to pay for the sins of the whole world. For your sins and mine.
All the Word of Jesus has been confirmed. Every last bit of it has been found to be faithful and true. For He who inspired it. He who gave it to prophets and apostles—is the very Word of God made flesh—and by His death and resurrection He has shown that He is the beloved Son of the Father—and that all people must listen to Him. This Word has been given to you, beloved. A Word to hold onto in the darkness of your lives. A Word to bring light and joy and healing to all who believe. For it is a Word of life. It is a Word of peace. For it is all about Jesus—the beloved Son of the Father who suffered and died for you. Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.