Transfiguration Sunday February 4, 2001
2 Peter 1:16-19
16, 135, 294, 290
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts. These are the Words.
In Christ Jesus, Who said, “If you abide in My Word, then are you My disciples indeed,” Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Which of the twelve disciples of Jesus is remembered especially for his skeptical nature?—If you answered “Thomas,” you’re correct! Better known as “Doubting Thomas,” he refused to believe it when the other disciples told him that Jesus had risen from the dead. He stubbornly said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” But Jesus appeared again to His disciples, and this time Thomas was there. Jesus told him to go ahead and touch His wounds, if that’s what it would take for him to believe. Thomas could only exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Just think: here was one of Jesus’ own disciples, just days after His death and resurrection, and already he was skeptical. Is it any wonder that there is skepticism about Jesus in our day and age, some two thousand years later? And not just skepticism, either, but downright unbelief. Sometimes you can see it in your closest friends and neighbors—you can tell by their tone of voice that they think you’re a little “soft upstairs” to believe in a mythical figure called Jesus from so long ago.
Yes, there is a lot of doubt, a lot of skepticism about Jesus Christ. Worst of all, we may at times find those doubts creeping into our own minds. “Is Jesus really the Son of God? Is He really the only Savior of mankind? Or are the skeptics right—am I just wasting my time with this Christian religion?” In our text for today, Peter offers a powerful remedy for such doubts. He offers us irrefutable proof of Christ’s deity. Our theme today is:
I’ll give you another example of skepticism—A number of years ago, a noted historian published a very popular book entitled, The Search for the Historical Jesus. The title itself assumes that the Jesus we Christians believe in is a fairy tale. It assumes that the Bible is full of myths and legends that must be stripped away in order to find the truth about the “historical” Jesus of Nazareth. To the question, “Is Jesus really the Son of God?” the best answer the author can give is, “I doubt it!”
The Apostle Peter knew that people would always have these doubts about Jesus. He was especially concerned that, as time passed, even the Christians would begin to entertain doubts. Doubts about who Jesus was, and what He did while He was on this earth. That’s why Peter was careful to leave us his own testimony that Jesus really IS the Son of God. Where’s the proof? In the first place, the Apostles prove it, for they were eyewitnesses to His glory.
Peter says, We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. You know, Peter says, we disciples didn’t just get together and make up a story about Jesus being the Son of God.
For the sake of argument, though, let’s assume the opposite for a moment. Suppose Jesus wasn’t really the Son of God, and the disciples did just make up a story about Him. Then what a cunning story it would have had to have been! And what an intricate conspiracy it would have involved! Think of it: for all the disciples to get their stories straight, for all of them to give the same facts about Jesus: His virgin birth, His sinless life, the miracles He performed, even His rising from the dead on Easter Sunday—well, there are only two conclusions we can come to. Either it all really happened, or else all those disciples, and all those writers of the New Testament, are telling us an impossibly elaborate lie! But it’s no lie, says Peter, it’s no cunning fiction. You can take it from us that it’s the truth, because “we were eyewitnesses of His majesty!”
What’s the strongest evidence you can bring into an American courtroom, in order to prove that a certain event did (or did not) take place? Of course—it’s an eyewitness. One or two eyewitnesses to an event establishes the truth of that event beyond the shadow of a doubt. Well, to prove the fact that Jesus really is the Son of God, Peter reminds us of one particular event—the Transfiguration. You heard the account of that event a few moments ago in our Gospel Lesson. And there were not one, not two, but three eyewitnesses to that event—Peter, James and John! All three of them saw Jesus’ face shining like the sun, and His clothes whiter than any launderer on earth could whiten them. All three of them saw Jesus discussing His coming death and resurrection with Moses and Elijah. All three of them heard the irrefutable evidence of Jesus’ deity, in the thunderous words of God the Father Himself. Peter says, For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
You have before you the evidence—the eyewitness account of what happened. You, my Christian friends, are the jury. What is your verdict? Was Jesus merely a good person, a “fine human teacher,” as so many people today want you to believe? In a world full of work-righteous moralism, was He merely the Supreme Moralist? Or is He the eternal Son of God, the Savior of the world, as Peter says? It’s one or the other, they can’t both be right. Be careful how you answer, for if you agree with Peter, then your life can never be the same. If Jesus really is your God, who has redeemed you to serve Him in righteousness, then your Christian faith can’t just be a convenient garment that you put on on Sundays, and take off for the remainder of the week. If it’s true, then Jesus Christ must be the very center of your life, not just a small part of it that you can neglect whenever you feel like it. In a solemn warning, the writer to the Hebrews asks, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him?” Heb 2:3.
Jesus IS the Son of God, and Peter offers us his own eyewitness testimony as proof. But there is an even stronger proof of Christ’s deity. Something that should convince us even more than if you and I could have been present on the Mount of Transfiguration ourselves. The Bible proves it, because it shines the light of Jesus’ Gospel in our hearts.
After giving this amazing account of the Transfiguration, Peter goes on to say, We have also a more sure word of prophecy. What’s he referring to? Where is the prophetic word made more sure than at the Transfiguration? Where can you hear the Word of the Lord more clearly than if you yourself were standing on that mountain with Peter? In the Bible! The only evidence more certain than a miracle, more certain even than an eyewitness account, is the evidence of Holy Scripture.
What is the most powerful object in your home? Maybe your furnace comes to mind, because it draws the most electric power. Maybe you own a portable generator that can put out a good deal of power. Perhaps you have a rifle or handgun, that has the power to propel a bullet several miles in a matter of seconds. Well, it’s none of these! Even if you had a nuclear reactor in your home, its power couldn’t equal a fraction of power contained in your family Bible. Yes, your Bible is by far the greatest source of power in your home. The writer to the Hebrews says that “The Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.” God, through Isaiah, says that this powerful Book always gets done what He wants done: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Is 55:11.
The Bible is the “sure prophetic Word” that Peter says is stronger than any miracle. And why is it such a powerful force in our lives? Because it proves to us that Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior. In this Book, God reveals His amazing plan for saving us sinners from hell. It was a plan that no one could ever have guessed. Truly, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” No one could have guessed that God planned to save the souls of lost mankind by giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sins! That’s the power of the Gospel that’s revealed in the Bible. It’s what made Paul confess, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.” Rom 1:16.
It’s good advice when Peter says to us that “We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place.” This world is certainly a dark place, full of sin and unbelief. Your life, too, may often seem like a dark place; when sin burdens your conscience, when troubles and illness strike you and your family, when a flood of cares and worries threaten to overwhelm you and wash you away. But even in deepest darkness, you have a light! That light is God’s Word. It’s the Word you’re listening to right now, and the Word that you can read for yourself every time you find a moment to open your family Bible. The light of God’s holy Word is there to reassure you when your heart is fearful. It tells you that all of your sins have been washed clean in Jesus’ blood. For it’s especially when you have that burden of sin on your heart—when you know in your heart that you’ve done the things you shouldn’t have done, when you know in your heart that you’ve neglected the things God has commanded you to do—that’s when you most need the Bible. That’s when God’s Word is the only power on earth that can lift the depression and calm your fearful heart. That’s when you need to hear the voice of Jesus saying to you, Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee. That’s when the only thing that can calm you is the forgiving Word of God: Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Do you feel lonely and depressed? Jesus says, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Are you worried about money and finances? Jesus says, “Do not worry—your Heavenly Father knows you have need of all these things.” Are you facing trouble? The Lord says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” This powerful Word contains answers to all your questions, solutions to all your problems, and proof to silence all your doubts. And the greatest proof of all that Jesus is the Son of God, your Lord and Savior, is the faith that the Holy Spirit has worked in your heart through this Gospel. Isn’t that the biggest miracle of all? Paul says, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” II Cor 4:6.
For a time, we live in this dark place, this vale of tears. But it won’t be that way forever. Peter says, “Heed this light…until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” Now we walk by faith, but a Day is coming when we won’t have to rely on faith any longer—we’ll see our Savior Jesus with our own eyes. My friends, the light of that heavenly dawn is already beginning to brighten in the east. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” In Jesus’ name, AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.