Transfiguration, Pericope A
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
2 Peter 1:16-21 Sermon
March 6, 2011
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
339 "All Hail The Power Of Jesus' Name"
135 "'Tis Good Lord To Be Here"
352 "O Saviour Precious Saviour"
341 "Crown Him With Many Crowns"
WITNESSES ESTABLISH FACTS
TEXT (vs. 16-18): “16For 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. 17For 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," 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”
Back in the 1950's, a children's author by the name of Beverly Cleary wrote a series of books about the adventures of a pre-teen boy named Henry Huggins. Henry lived with his parents in a home in Klickitat Street in Portland, Oregon.
Amongst his friends that lived around him were the Quimbys who lived just a few doors away. Henry and the oldest girl called "Beezus" had been friends ever since they could remember. Beezus' real name was Beatrice; but her little sister Ramona could only say "Beezus." Because of this, the nickname stuck; and that's the name by which everybody knew her.
Beezus and Henry were the same age and in the same class in school. They would hang out together, play games, and watch TV. They were truly each other's best friends.
However, Beezus' little sister Ramona was a different matter. She was a real pest. She always wanted to do what the big kids were doing, so she'd tag along and make a general nuisance of herself. She wasn't such a bad child, but her assertiveness and curiosity always seemed to create problems for everybody.
When Henry turned 11, he was able to get a paper route. He took over the route from Murph, another boy who lived close by. Murph gave up the route in frustration, because he couldn't handle the antics of little Ramona Quimby. Ramona would follow behind him and pick up the papers he had delivered and would throw them on other people's doorsteps, trying to imitate what Murph was doing.
When Henry took over the route, Ramona wasn't any better. So when Henry talked to Ramona's mother about what was going on, she made her a little paperboy's bag with the word "Journal" embroidered on the side, and gave her some old newspapers to play with.
This made matters even worse. Now Ramona tagged along right behind Henry, like a little shadow. The kids at school were really making fun of him now. Henry would tell her to quit following him, to go home, to get lost, and whatever he could think of, but it did absolutely no good. He was just about at his wits' end.
Then he got an idea. Ramona would faithfully watch a local children's cartoon show every day, starring Sheriff Bud. For that half hour, you couldn't budge her from the television. So Henry decided to write Sheriff Bud a letter, explaining what was going on with Ramona. Perhaps he could help.
After a week or so passed, Henry kind of gave up on the idea that he could get Sheriff Bud's help, thinking that it was a ridiculous idea anyway. What could one local TV personality do to help solve a problem between two children?
One day, Henry and Beezus were playing checkers over at her house, like they often did. Ramona was glued to the TV watching Sheriff Bud. Their mother was in the kitchen. Then something happened. Sheriff Bud moved in very close to the TV camera. Suddenly his booming voice came through the TV: "Ramona Geraldine Quimby, I see you out there!" Everybody in the room just stared at the TV in amazement. Even her mother came in from the kitchen to see what was going on.
Then Sheriff Bud continued, "I know you've been bothering Henry Huggins on his paper route! Do you promise to never, ever bother him again?"
Ramona managed to squeak out a whispered "yes" in response. Otherwise everybody just sat there in quiet amazement, still not quite believing what had just happened.
As a result of this, Ramona never bothered Henry on his paper route again. Sheriff Bud was the only voice Ramona would listen to that would make a difference. An unexpected voice broke through everything, and she was obliged to listen and to heed it.
Today is the festival of the Transfiguration. The situation is described by Matthew in our Gospel reading for today. If you can imagine what things were like in the Quimby's TV room when Sheriff Bud spoke to little Ramona, it can't even begin to compare to what Peter, James, and John experienced on the mount of Transfiguration. To hear the very voice of God say, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," as Peter quotes in verse 17 of our Epistle for today, this had to be an unbelievably awesome experience, so awesome that none of us could really ever comprehend it unless we were to actually experience it for ourselves.
Today we are looking at the Epistle reading for today for a particular reason. Peter was there. He was an eyewitness to all that happened. Matthew accurately records the account of the Transfiguration itself in our Gospel lesson, which is definitely of key importance. However, Peter gives us his personal account and response, and he uses it to teach a valuable lesson to his readers.
Listen to the words Peter uses in verses 16 and 18 of our Epistle: "...we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.... we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain."
Do you notice the use of the word "we?" That's right, because we know that James and John were there, standing right along side of Peter when all this was happening. According to Jewish law, it only took two witnesses to establish a matter as being factual. In this case, Jesus used three witnesses, so there would be no doubt in anybody's mind about what they had seen and heard.
If we carry this over into today's world, we know how important witnesses are in legal proceedings. If you have ever been one of several witnesses to something, police officers will generally separate the witnesses and get their particular stories one-on-one. One witness isn't allowed to hear what the other witness or witnesses say. If everybody's story checks out, then they are able to determine what the facts of the matter really are. It's only common sense to do something like this.
There were a lot of nay-sayers amongst the people at that time, just like there are today. People are not likely to believe something, especially if it is something that goes against common sense or the laws of nature. Even though miracles do happen today, people are not likely to believe something of this nature, even when there are several witnesses. Anything supernatural seems to get relegated into the field of myth and science fiction, and it simply gets dismissed as just that.
One of my members in Australia was a bus driver. He told me that as he was driving one night, he saw a UFO on the highway ahead of him. He was able to stop the bus and watch it do whatever weird things it did. He told me, "I would have never believed it myself, except that there were 36 other witnesses on that bus who saw the exact same thing." Nobody ever did figure out what it was that they saw; only that it defied description of anything they had seen before.
In today's world, we experience illusions everywhere. Quite apart from the sleight-of-hand artists and the master illusionists that exist, there are so many different effects that can be computer generated. Hollywood has mastered this art. They can put just about anything on film with the proper editing and effects.
But what Peter, James, and John saw that day was very real indeed. There were no lasers, or projectors, or special effects generators. Computers would be another couple millennia in the future. What they saw was no act; it was very real indeed.
If we look now at verse 19 of our Epistle, Peter writes: "And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention..." Peter even uses some improper grammar to make his point. If something is sure, then it is for certain; it is without a doubt. So how can something then be MORE sure? Wouldn't that be like saying "more better" or "more perfect?"
The whole idea is emphasis. Peter wants his readers to erase any shred or seed of doubt that may exist. He wants to emphasize the absolute certainty of who Jesus is, and the authority of God that rests upon him.
We are a world of doubters. It's been bred into us to be skeptical of everything. And we carry these seeds of doubt with us all the time, and scatter them every place we go. We also need reassurance and stability. We need to be sure of our solid foundation.
The sin of doubt and uncertainty that plagues us is the main reason we emphasize this account of the Transfiguration. This miraculous glimpse of his glory, where Jesus is there with Moses and Elijah in his divine radiance is an event that reassures us of our faith.
This is what the disciples would need at this very time. Jesus would soon begin to experience the long road to Golgotha, which would result in his crucifixion and death. If any event could threaten a person's faith, even the faith of the disciples, this would be it.
But the voice of God breaks through in grand fashion. "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," were the words God spoke from heaven. And then God says, "listen to him." We can trust Jesus implicitly. His words are God's words. We can believe them without any doubt whatsoever.
So where do we go to find the word of God? We don't go to a person or appeal to science for an answer. It would be foolish for us to trust something so uncertain. Peter therefore reminds us in verses 20-21 of our Epistle: "...no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 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's no secret that people of today have a lot of trouble when it comes to believing the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. But if we believe that God spoke as he did, and we believe that Jesus is who God said he is, then it only follows that God's Word in the Bible is absolute truth. It would be ridiculous to believe what happened on the mount is true, and then deny the very Word that attests to it. Remember that witnesses do establish facts, and that's what has happened here.
Our sinful hearts that are steeped in unbelief try to convince us otherwise. That's why we need to look at Jesus for who he really is. He wants us to come to him through faith alone to find forgiveness and hope that is sure. He wants to give us faith-building experiences that will give us strength when we are at our weakest. He wants us to look to him alone for an eternal blessed hope in the life to come as well as for strength for our life here on earth.
In Mark chapter 9 Jesus is asked to heal a boy who was possessed with a demon. The boy's father has his doubts about Jesus. He asks Jesus to heal his son, IF he could. What a foolish thing to say about God! Jesus reminds him that with God, all things are possible. There are no "if's" about it. The father, seeing the folly of his statement then declares to Jesus in verse 24, "Lord I believe; help thou mine unbelief!"
The account on the mount of Transfiguration does just that for us. Three witnesses have established it as a fact. God's very Word in the Bible attests to it. Therefore we put all of our faith in our Saviour Jesus, who alone can save us and bring us into an eternal heavenly glory.
At the beginning, I used a little girl, Ramona Quimby as an illustration. She heard a thundering voice calling her name, and it made a sudden and abrupt change in her life. She quit pestering Henry Huggins as he did his paper route. Her change also made a huge change in his life too.
Today we have heard a voice from heaven, the voice of God himself. Thundering there on the mountain, he tells us that Jesus is his beloved son, and that we are to listen to him. We are directed to the divinely inspired and inerrant Word of God in the Bible to hear that voice. Therein lies our hope for the future and strength for the present.
We accept Jesus through nothing more than faith alone. However we also have witnesses, three of them to be exact, who have established this whole matter as an absolute fact. May this reassure us as we continue our walk of faith, now and always, hand-in-hand with our Saviour.