Text: 2 Peter 1:16-21
16 For 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. 17 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,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
When John Paul II was Pope back in 1984, he was to visit a hospital and everyone there was anxiously awaiting his visit. A doctor who had a handful of paperwork took a seat in a wheelchair and busied himself with his notes. The Pope swept in, and blessed the doctor, who immediately stood up and walked forward. Those in the Pope's entourage were astonished - crossed themselves and looked upward.
L.M. Boyd, Crown Syndicate, January, 1984.
Did the pope heal the man in the wheelchair … no. Can God continue to do miraculous things … yes.
16 For 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.
In his last letter to the church of God Peter writes of his witness to God’s work. He and the other apostles were not deceived, he says to follow stories and myths but we were eye witnesses – not of mistaken miracles like a well person rising from a wheelchair – but of his majesty.
Transfiguration weekend is here and it is the last weekend in the church year before Ash Wednesday and Lent begins. The revealing of the true nature of Jesus Christ as both God and man as he was transfigured before them.
Peter here, as he is writing is an old man. Reasonable dating for this epistle is 68 AD. It has been almost 40 years since the crucifixion. Peter may be in his early 70s and he is preparing to depart this earthly tent saying just previously to our epistle:
13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.
It is Peter’s hope to leave a lasting impression for the church so that - after [his] departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
So recalling that time long ago – and for we who are a bit older – looking back 40 years is not much of a stretch. With my son Jon and Elizabeth Nold preparing to get married in a few weeks it certainly is easy to think back 35 years and longer.
1982 seems like yesterday to Monica and me, though much has changed but the image in our minds eyes remains vivid. Preparing for the church service and reception with friends, relatives and neighbors, some old and some new come to mind. Many still are in our lives and many have long departed like my grandmother Wilma Lanyi who was in attendance but left to be with the Lord in 1983. Much could be written and maybe much should be for our children and future grandchildren if it be the Lord’s will.
That is Peter’s focus here as he recounts his presence with the Lord. 17 For when [Jesus] 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,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
This presence with Christ remained clear for Peter just as much of my own wedding does for me and I’m sure for Monica as well. Well … for her better than me as she remembers details I’ve long forgotten. But Peter is clear here that he heard God’s Majestic voice and saw Jesus transfigured as his glory and honor were revealed because he along with the others were with him on the holy mountain.
We’re I to tell you that the car Monica and I road to the wedding reception in was a 1976 Lincoln Continental Town Car, silver 2 door hard top with a maroon velour interior - You’d have to take my word for it as one who was there and was an eyewitness. But, even better yet, I was the one who asked my friend John who was one of my groomsmen to ask his dad if he would let us use his car.
Monica and I had a picture taken sitting in the back seat before it departed for the reception but unless you had an eyewitness account … it would be near impossible to know the cars, make, model or year. Now, though it is written in a sermon if anyone cares to know.
In Peter’s account the value of his eyewitness reporting is of much greater importance. He says in verse 15 one verse before the epistle for today:
15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
He writes this so that when he is gone the value of his knowledge and witness might be made known then and now through his prophetic witness as he points us to the scriptures.
We have photo albums and wedding photographs to leave a record and trustworthy witness for our children – today it’s video, cell phones, facebook, twitter and instagram for those who come after us. We have eyewitnesses who were there and those who heard their witness, just as this church does in pictures and Voter’s meeting reports and stories for those who wish to know what we did in the life of the church. Can memories be mistaken and can pictures be deceiving … sure. So, why is Peter’s witness reliable?
Because it is not Peter the man but God by the Holy Spirit that his witness is true.
21 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.
It is in the transfiguration account that Peter, James and John went up on the mountain with Jesus. Matthew who was a Tax Collector writes of this account in the gospel lesson for today.
2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”
The vision is good, right and salutary for you and me as well for it is here in the written account that Matthew by that same Holy Spirit connects Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament and the Prophets. All that God did and said is illuminated through him – through Jesus - and it is we who still have access to this witness … his word of promise and fulfillment … by his means of word and sacrament.
As Peter said: … 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,
God’s gift to you and me points back to God being manifest and made known in the person and work of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Today this same Holy Spirit points us back through the word of promise and hope in testament and prophets to all that Jesus came to do for you and me, and it looks forward to his glorious return where he will gather his bride to himself, but it also sustains us this day and every day with the sure and certain hope that past, present and future are united in him.
Where his bride the church are, there is the Jesus … the bridegroom … the way the truth and the life … and the way to the father.
“Lord, it is good that we are here.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in and through Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior now and forever. Amen