March 2, 2014: Transfiguration Sunday

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we join with the apostles and saints in celebrating a glorious day—for You and for us! For on Your Transfiguration Day you shed the cocoon of humanity for a brief moment to reveal the Divine glory that You possessed all along and that awaits us someday. Moreover, all this is revealed to us in Your Divine Word. What a joy it is to know our future and to know it rests totally secure in You. Amen


TEXT: 2 Peter 1: 16-21

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Recently someone asked me: “Why do we celebrate Transfiguration Sunday just before Lent?” It’s a good question. Do you know the answer? Let’s put it this way: You’re leaving tomorrow to hike the Appalachian Trail. It will take you about 5 or 6 months. You’ll be living out of your backpack, eating cold food, taking cold sponge-baths, and sleeping on the hard ground in your sleeping bag. So, how will you spend the day before all this begins? Won’t you enjoy a hot, sumptuous meal? Won’t you luxuriate in a steamy bathtub? Won’t you nod off in a comfortable bed the night before? Well, there’s your answer to our earlier question. Transfiguration was placed into the church year to accentuate the contrast with Lent. It’s a little slice of glory, a Messianic mountain-top, before Jesus descends into His passion in saving our souls.


Peter was probably about my age when he wrote this letter to Jewish background Christians. He had been in Christ’s ministry about 30 years. Can you imagine the stories he told when he was preaching? He was there when Christ preached the Sermon on the Mount. He saw Him raise the youth of Nain from the dead. He participated in feeding the 5000 and later the 4000. He tasted that water turned to wine at Cana. He saw Christ crucified. He heard the news of the resurrection and hoped and wondered whether it was true. And then Christ appeared to Him numerous times, restored him to saving faith, and later ascended into heaven before Peter’s own eyes. Peter knew all these things had been prophesied in the OT. He also knew his readers of this letter were well aware of those OT truths. And yet, one event especially stayed with him all these years. It was etched on his conscience. It brought every truth, every prophesy, every event of Christ’s life into perfect clarity. It was Christ’s Transfiguration. On that mountain top Peter had a 20/20 vision of exactly Who Jesus really was and was also given the joyous clarity of heavenly glory that awaits. When you read this section, you get the idea that Peter still wishes he were there with Jesus and had been able to construct those hermitage-like huts that Luke recounts.

“We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”

Yes, in that instant, which happened not too long before Christ’s Passion in Jerusalem, Peter, James, and John saw the Divine. They beheld Jesus with Moses and Elijah standing with Him. They saw the true meaning of: “God is light and in Him dwells no darkness at all.” And the joy that enveloped them was literally inexpressible! Human speech fails to describe it all! And remember, my friends, that same glory awaits you and me because Jesus gave it to us. He earned it for us with His suffering and death on the cross. Yes, God’s glorious reality is just a hair-breath beyond our senses.


With this as background, Peter now goes on to say something truly outrageous! But, then, I guess the Gospel is totally outrageous to the sin-corrupted human mind, isn’t it? Well, here it is: “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Now, Peter has in mind here the OT writings of which his hearers were intimately acquainted. But really, this statement applies to the NT writings, too. The outrageous thing about this is that Peter says God’s Word, the Holy Bible, is even more certain (if that’s even possible) than his eyewitness experience at the transfiguration! To us, “seeing is believing.” We like to postulate how if we had been there and seen the crucifixion or the empty tomb or Christ ascending before our eyes we’d never doubt again. Yet, Peter says that the words recorded in the Bible are made “more certain” for us! Moreover, they will stay “more certain” until the Light of the world comes to take us into glory on judgment day! How can this be?

Well, Peter tells us how. “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

The Bible is God’s Word. Yes, it was written by men chosen by God for that purpose, yet He put His Words and His thoughts into their minds and into their pens. They didn’t just believe it was true—it actually was true! The Holy Spirit carried them along and gave them God’s take in everything they wrote.

Question: do you consider yourself more blest than Peter, James or John? Do you consider what you learned in Sunday School or confirmation class or during your devotional readings from Scripture as somehow superior to their personal experiences? Peter says right here that you should, because it is! To be sure, they were given great blessings and insights. They had direct knowledge of the Savior and what He has done to save us. And yet, Peter says that the totality of the Bible is superior, made more certain, than their individual eyewitness testimony!

Was Peter merely engaging in hyperbole here? Was he simply showing his humility after disowning Christ and being graciously restored to faith? No. He was totally serious and totally correct because the Holy Spirit inspired him to write this and the Spirit cannot lie!

Like you, I often think about what it must have been like to be there with Jesus, to touch Him, to talk with Him. I often think: “How blest those apostles were.” And yet, we’re just as blest today, maybe moreso because we possess the whole counsel of God in His Word. He have the Word with us right now. And since Jesus is the “Word made flesh” we’ve not been short-suited at all!

Don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in God’s Word. Don’t be afraid to embrace it. For through it Jesus embraces you with love, compassion, knowledge, insight, guidance, forgiveness, and yes, the gift of heavenly splendor. As we journey along and visit the trail to the cross during the next 40 days of Lent, just remember: Jesus, along with His glory, is as close to you as your Bible. Amen