“The Apostolic Witness and the Prophetic Word” (2 Peter 1:16-21)

The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Sunday, February 23, 2020

“The Apostolic Witness and the Prophetic Word” (2 Peter 1:16-21)

“Cleverly devised myths.” That’s what we Christians are accused of believing. All that stuff about Jesus Christ being the Son of God and the only Savior of the world? “Just a bunch of fables, fairy tales, myths.”

But then this is nothing new. Even back in the first century, Christians were ridiculed for believing the same thing. People said they were falling for a bunch of poppycock, fables and fairy tales. St. Peter refers to this in our epistle for today when he writes, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And to counter that false accusation, Peter then cites two testimonies that support the message about Christ. They are the eyewitness testimony of the apostles and the Spirit-inspired testimony of the prophets in Holy Scripture. The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles–these give us a firm foundation for our faith. They assure us that we are not following just some “cleverly devised myths.” And so our theme this morning: “The Apostolic Witness and the Prophetic Word.”

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As Peter writes this, he and the other apostles have been at this for many years, preaching and teaching the gospel of Christ. Their message has at its goal and great hope, “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And Peter is talking about what we too believe, teach, and confess. We just said in the Creed that he, Christ, “will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead” and that his “kingdom will have no end.” This is what Peter and the apostles preached. This is what we believe and look forward to.

“The power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” His power: Jesus’ divine authority as the Son of God. His coming: His Second Coming, his glorious appearing on the Last Day. Without these, we have nothing to look forward to, no salvation.

But the critics in Peter’s day, and in ours, say we are just following “cleverly devised myths.” Peter talks about this again in chapter 3, where he says that scoffers will mock the Christian message and say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For all things are continuing as they were.” You see, even just a few decades in, the mockers thought this whole business about Christ coming again in glory was a bunch of hooey, since it hadn’t happened yet. How much more now, almost 2000 years later!

In our day, there are plenty who ridicule the Christian faith. You’ve heard them. They will say that this old-fashioned belief that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God who came in the flesh and died for our sins and rose from the dead–that this is all old fairy tales, invented by his delusional followers. “Jesus, divine, God, the only Savior? You actually believe that stuff? You’ve got to be kidding me!” Oh, people may give Jesus a little faint praise as a good teacher and a fine example, but that’s about it. The rest of it, they say, was made up by his followers. They wanted to gain control over people’s lives by inventing a religion.

And then there’s his Second Coming. People don’t believe that, either. And many of those who do believe in Christ’s Second Coming give that belief a bad name. They mess up the Bible’s teaching on the subject by mixing in their own misguided notions. I’m talking about the millennialists and the “Rapture” crowd. They do not help matters any. Instead, they give fuel to the mockers.

So that’s the hostile environment we Christians find ourselves in, in our culture, much as the Christians did back at the time of St. Peter. That’s why Peter goes on now to give two testimonies to the power and coming of Christ, in order to bolster our faith in the face of such mockery. And those testimonies are these: the apostolic witness and the prophetic word.

The apostolic witness. “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Peter writes, “but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” That is true of all of Christ’s apostles. All twelve were eyewitnesses of his majesty as he did many miraculous signs before them, healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead. All twelve of the apostles were eyewitnesses of his majesty when they saw the Lord Jesus Christ risen from the dead; they touched his glorified body and talked with him over a period of forty days. All twelve were eyewitnesses of his majesty when they saw Jesus ascend into heaven, and the angels said he would come again in like manner. The apostles were eyewitnesses of Christ’s majesty.

And three of them in particular, Peter, James, and John, were given an additional eyewitness experience: It was the Transfiguration of Our Lord, which we celebrate today. Peter writes: “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 is recalling the magnificent Transfiguration event that we read about in today’s Gospel. Peter was there! He saw Christ transfigured with glory! He saw the bright cloud. He heard the Father’s voice, “This is my beloved Son.” Decades later now, Peter could still recall with vividness that unforgettable mountaintop experience. Thus there is no doubt in Peter’s mind about “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He saw Christ in his glory. He saw the Second Coming prefigured in the Transfiguration of Our Lord.

The Transfiguration shows us who it is that is going to the cross for us and who will come again at the Last Day. It is the very Son of God, no less! Think of it: God’s own Son, going to the cross, willing to suffer and die for your sins in your place! And the Father’s voice attests to this, saying that he, the Father, is “well pleased” with his Son for doing this. The Father tells the disciples to “listen to him” when Jesus predicts his Passion now and makes his way to Jerusalem. This made a big impression on Peter. Remember, it was Peter who had tried to dissuade Jesus from such talk, saying it was beneath the Messiah’s dignity to suffer and die. But now, years later, now understanding the saving purpose of Christ’s Passion, Peter recalls that event on the mountaintop as deeply significant. It told him who his Savior really is. And it is this same crucified and risen Savior who will return for us at the Second Coming.

So the apostolic witness to the power and coming of Christ is the first thing Peter uses to assure us of the truth of the Christian faith. The other thing is the prophetic word: “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, 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 prophetic word. Here Peter is talking about what we call the Old Testament Scriptures. These also testify to the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The prophecies of Moses, of Isaiah and Jeremiah and the rest, Daniel–these all pointed ahead to what would be fulfilled in the coming of Christ, both his first coming and his second. The apostolic witness confirms, and is confirmed by, the sure prophetic word.

The prophetic word, the word of the prophets in the Old Testament Scriptures. And besides that, we now have also the word of the apostles, the apostolic witness, recorded in the books of the New Testament. Together, the prophets and apostles, the Old Testament and the New, this is the Holy Bible as we have it, the inscripturated Word of God.

“To which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” The world in which we live is a place of darkness, of ignorance toward God and his ways. We need light to guide our way. Even in the church, visible Christendom, there are those who distort the truth and mix in false teachings. We need a lamp to guide us. We have that in God’s word.

Pay attention to this word. You need it. Attend to the preaching and teaching of God’s word on a regular basis. Study it. Gladly hear and learn it. This is how you will know the truth that sets you free. The Scriptures will point you to your Savior, Jesus Christ, who died for you, rose from the dead for you, and who will come again in glory for you, to take you home. The Spirit-inspired Word of God will guide us in all truth. “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

“Until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” We look forward to that day, the day of Christ’s return. “Lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing nigh.” This is no fable; this is no fairy tale. No, the two testimonies, the apostolic witness and the prophetic word, both attest to the reality of our great hope. “The power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” is no cleverly devised myth. Indeed, it is the divinely revealed truth of our glorious Savior and the hope we have in him.

Published in: on February 22, 2020 at 11:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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