February 23, 2020
2 Peter 1:16-21
Eyewitnesses of His Majesty!
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. 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. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophets 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. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I am an eyewitness to what may be the most spectacular way to lose one’s job. It happened while I was living in Seattle. I was traveling west on a road that went over a local freeway. I was stopped at the light. I was the second or third car back from the light. I watched as a truck came barreling up the exit ramp towing a trailer with a big backhoe on it. He tried to go east on the road where I was sitting. He was going so fast I wondered how he was going to make the turn. Sure enough, as he came screeching around the corner I saw the backhoe begin to lean— a little more, a little more, a little more until finally the whole trailer began to flip! The tractor went tumbling into the intersection with glass and parts flying all over the place. The truck went right by my window dragging the now upside down trailer behind it. Once I was able to breathe again and once I got out of my car and found that no one was hurt I thought to myself, “That has to be the most spectacular way to lose one’s job that I have ever seen!”
Have you ever been an eyewitness, my friends? Have you ever witnessed the miracle of a child being born? Have you ever witnessed the simple stunning beauty of the sun rising or setting across the ocean? If you have ever been an eyewitness to something spectacular or something miraculous or something stunning then you will easily be able to relate to how I would like us to study our sermon text for today. On this Transfiguration Sunday— just days before we enter into the solemn season of Lent— let’s study this portion of Peter’s second epistle under the theme: Eyewitnesses of His Majesty! As we study this text let’s first of all look at the eyewitness testimony that Peter gives to us. Then let’s see how Peter’s eyewitness testimony impacts us today.
Peter wrote this letter towards the end of his life. (See 2 Peter 1:13-14) The reason he wrote this letter was to remind God’s people of truths they already knew so that they would not lose sight of those truths after Peter was gone. (See 2 Peter 12-14) Sadly, there we already people both inside the church as well as outside of the church who were “exploiting” God’s people with “stories they have made up.” (See 2 Peter 2:3) One of the truths that these false teachers had completely dismissed, one of the glorious proclamations of the Christian faith that these false teachers openly denied was the glorious return of Jesus Christ to this earth as the Judge of the living and the dead. For that reason, Peter begins our text by saying, “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.”
As we heard in our Gospel lesson for today (Matthew 17:1-9) Peter (together with James and John) was with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter was there when Jesus’ face “shone like the sun.” Peter was there when Jesus’ clothes became “as white as the light.” Peter was there as Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus about His upcoming death on the cross. (Pointing to the cross) (See Luke 9:30-31) Peter heard the heavenly Father proclaim Jesus to be His beloved Son with Whom the Father was “well pleased.” Peter saw these things with his own two eyes! Peter heard these things with his own two ears! And even though Peter at one time denied even knowing who Jesus of Nazareth is— nothing, my friends, nothing like that would ever happen again! The glorious glimpse of heaven that Peter was given on the Mount of Transfiguration was now another guarantee to Peter that his resurrected Lord will return to this earth in all of His power and in all of His glory and in all of His majesty— just as He promised He would.
Yes, my friends, the fact that Peter was an eyewitness of the majesty of Christ was one reason that Peter could be so confident as he reminded his readers about “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But there was more! Peter’s boldness and Peter’s confidence also rested on the rock-solid foundation of the inspired Word of his God. Look at what Peter says concerning the Word of God in verses 19-21 of our text. He writes, “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain…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.”
I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Peter believed in the inspiration of God’s holy Word long before he had even heard of Jesus of Nazareth. That heartfelt trust in the Scriptures only grew exponentially deeper as Peter became an eyewitness of Jesus’ majesty over and over and over again. As Peter read or recalled our Old Testament Lesson for today (Exodus 24:12, 15-18), as Peter watched the Old Testament Messianic prophecies come to fulfillment before his very eyes, as Peter witnessed Jesus perform miracle after miracle from healing the sick to casting out demons to raising the dead, as Peter listened to Jesus teach the Truth of Scripture with an authority and a clarity unmatched by anyone else, as Peter watched Jesus of Nazareth carry out the Father’s Plan of Salvation for this world— a Plan that was clearly laid out in the holy Scriptures, Peter understood even more that the Old Testament prophets were indeed men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Yes, the testimony of Scripture became even “more certain” for Peter each time Peter became an eyewitness of the majesty of his God.
Wouldn’t it be absolutely amazing, my friends, if you and I could be like Peter? Wouldn’t it be absolutely amazing if we too could be Eyewitnesses of Majesty? (Pointing to the cross) You know, of course, that I am being facetious. You are eyewitnesses of the majesty of our God! On the day you were baptized in the Name of the Triune God you were given both the power and the privilege of being an eyewitness of the majesty of God. Now, every single time you watch someone receive the Sacrament of Holy Baptism you are an eyewitness of God’s majesty as you watch the God of heaven adopt even the tiniest infant as His dearly beloved child. Every time you approach this altar to receive the true body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion you are an eyewitness of His majesty as your God gives you the visible tangible assurance that all of your sins are completely forgiven. Every time you see either a child or an adult stand up on the day of their Confirmation and publicly promise to remain faithful to God even to the point of death you are an eyewitness of the majesty of God. Every time you see the power of God’s Law lead someone to say, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13) and then see the glory of God’s Gospel lift them up by saying to them, “Take heart…your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2) you are an eyewitness of the majesty of God. Every time you open up your Bible and with the eyes of faith see the Creation of the world, the deliverance of God’s people from slavery in Egypt, the birth of the Promised Messiah, the crucifixion of this world’s only Savior from sin, the resurrection of our Victorious Lord— over and over again God’s holy inspired Word gives you an opportunity to once again be an eyewitness of the majesty of our God!
Why is this so important to remember? Why can you never lose sight of the fact that you are an eyewitness of God’s majesty? Because just as in the days of the apostle Peter so also there are people today— people outside the church, people inside the church, people who claim to be “biblical scholars”— there are people today who will try to “exploit you with stories they have made up” (2 Peter 2:3). For example, there are people today who see the Bible as nothing more than a collection of “myths and stories,” “legends and allegories” that you need to logically dissect in your own mind to see if you can find a “kernel” of truth that applies to you and to your life. That’s why Peter continues to say to his readers right down to this very day, “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have” (2 Peter 1:12). That’s why you often hear me emphasize the same basic objective unchangeable truths of Scripture over and over again. We need to be confident of what we are eyewitnesses of so that we can not only treasure what God has revealed to us in His Word, but so that we can also share what with others what we ourselves have witnessed!
As I sat at that stop light in Washington, as I watched that truck come screeching around the corner, as I watched that tractor tumble across the road I became an eyewitness to what I still think is the most spectacular way for a person to lose their job. Imagine explaining that one to your boss! You may also be able to recall amazing, stunning events of which you are an eyewitness. But it all pales in comparison, my friends, to what God in His grace has enabled us to be eyewitnesses of as we read and study His holy inspired Word. As the saved children of God we have stood alongside Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration and witnessed Jesus’ face “shine like the sun” and His clothes become “as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). As the saved children of God we have stood alongside Mary on the Mount of Calvary and watched as our sins nailed God’s Son to the cross. As the saved children of God we stood alongside the disciples in that locked room on that first Easter Sunday and heard the victorious risen Christ say to us, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19) As the saved children of God we have stood alongside the disciples on the Mount of Ascension and heard the heavenly angels’ promise that our Brother Jesus will one day return to this earth in all of His power, in all of His glory and in all of His majesty. And, as the saved children of God we will one day stand at our King’s right hand and become eyewitnesses of the events that will usher us into a glorious eternity. When we stop to contemplate all of this, when we stop to realize how often the God of heaven allows us to be Eyewitnesses of His Majesty (Pointing to the cross) how can we not say:
To God be the glory!