A child’s birth, a college graduation, grandma’s funeral – these are some examples of life-changing events. We’ve all observed them and they’ve affected us in one way or another, either for good or bad. Just consider the events of September 11th. We all witnessed the tragedy of that day and it has had a profound impact on our country and lives; a life-changing event to say the least.
Today, St. Peter recalls a life-changing event of his own. It was the Transfiguration; the day Jesus briefly revealed his glory. That day obviously impacted Peter’s life. Yet, he tells us that he wasn’t the only one affected. He wasn’t the only one to witness that majestic happening. Peter reminds us that WE ARE WITNESSES as well. We are witnesses 1) of God’s Glory, just as Peter was. The reason for this is because we are also witnesses 2) to God’s Word.
1) Of God’s Glory
When you heard the account of Jesus’ transfiguration, did it inspire you? Did it make you long for heaven, where you could see for yourself what those three disciples once saw? Or did those words from Matthew 17 sort of roll past your ears as a muted buzz? I suppose we 21st Century Americans have a hard time getting excited about words that are over 2,000 years old, especially when those words try to convey the supernatural. After all, we’ve seen it all, haven’t we? Nothing can shock us. People say we’re cynical. But this cynicism is nothing new. In fact, that notion was alive and well at the time of the apostle Peter. He had seen the most profound life-changing event ever known; the transfiguration of Christ. He was an eyewitness of the eternal glory of God; glory that was present at creation, glory that led Israel from Egypt, glory that guarded and guided them in the wilderness, glory that sustained the universe; and now Peter witnessed that glory radiating from Jesus’ very body!
How did people respond when Peter shared this experience? They thought he was crazy. They accused him of embellishing, or making up, stories. People called his eyewitness account a myth. The people of Peter’s time knew plenty of fantastic stories. They were cynical as well. There was the Jewish Talmud; a collection of mythological stories about people in the Old Testament. Then there were the myths from Eastern religions, and the stories from the Greeks or the Romans. Each culture seemed to have its own set of myths that were never meant to be taken at face value. All those myths about the Roman or Greek gods were just a way of trying to understand the mysteries of the universe. And so, many people looked at the account of Jesus’ life in the same way; just another myth with some sort of truth attached to it.
I’m sure there was a part of those ancient people that longed for those myths to be real. As cynical as people were, they still wanted to believe in glory – glory they could touch and see for themselves.
As skeptical as we are, we still hunger for glory. We want glorious lives. Just as the little boy in first century Greece dreamed of being Hercules, so today young children long to be likes of glorious superheroes. We want to do more; be more; see more; experience more! We want to be dipped in glory and majesty up to our eyeballs. And we’ll grab for this glory any way we can.
We want to have our socks knocked off. Take the motion picture industry for example, most people don’t go to the movies to watch a movie – to see a plot develop or relate to a story – no; nowadays people go to see the latest special effects or the cutest leading man. And people no longer watch the Super bowl simply to see a football game; instead people seem more interested in the new commercials. We want to be “wowed!” We have an insatiable hunger for glory.
The sad thing is that we look for glory and majesty in ourselves. We try to achieve it for ourselves. Unfortunately, we can’t. The best we can do is pretend. We are incapable of achieving any real, lasting glory. The darkness of sin shrouds each of us, and blocks out any glory. We are weak, perishable creatures. Any glory we hope to achieve will only fade away.
Last week I heard about an 82 year old woman who underwent plastic surgery. She had a complete “overhaul” if you will, from her lips enlarged to a tummy tuck. When asked why she considered such a thing, she said, “I’m tired of being deprived. I want it all!” In other words, she wanted the glory. She wanted to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and be able to “wow” herself. Unfortunately, we can’t “wow” ourselves forever. The glory eventually fades away. Skin wrinkles and tummies sag. Sin collects its wages. And it is not glorious.
Peter says we can be wowed, however. Jesus’ transfiguration is evidence of God wowing us. Look to Christ and you witness God’s glory – an eternal glory, an independent glory; a glory that doesn’t need a facelift, a glory that doesn’t rely on the next technological breakthrough. This is a glory that is supreme! And today we stand with Peter and the other disciples and we witness this glory. This is God’s glory, which he revealed. The Transfiguration was a reminder of the full glory that awaited Jesus after his suffering and death. It was as if Jesus lifted the veil and gave us a peek of who he truly is. And he does this to encourage us when we need it most, for he would go on the face the cross and tomb. He would die. But all the while Jesus is telling us not to worry. Jesus faced the final battle with sin, Satan, and death. He overcame our enemies. He paid the wages of sin for us. He suffered in our place. And he rose again to assure us that his glory is supreme. Now, that glory is ours and one day we will stand in the New Jerusalem – heaven – and we will bask in the light of God’s glory forever. Right now, that might be hard for us to understand, but one day we will see clearly. God promises to knock our socks off. He promises to “wow!” us. We will stand in the full glory of God --glory that sought us as his own, glory that sent his own beloved Son to save us, glory that made us his children, the eternal glory of God almighty – that’s ours!
2) To God’s Word
The apostle Peter never forgot the beauty of that afternoon on the mountaintop. He never forgot the majesty he had witnessed. He was convinced that what he saw was the truth. Peter didn’t rely on his own experience or simply trust his eyes. There was something more that made him certain of what he witnessed was the truth. It was the voice of God the Father. Peter tells us: 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.” The Father himself testified that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. And in those fatherly words are reflected the voices of the prophets, who have long foretold the coming of God’s Son. Peter was a witness to the Word revealed by God.
The word of the prophets came from God himself. Their words are God’s Word. The whole Old Testament is really one big message of promise, the promise of the Savior. Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. Christ is like a red thread running throughout the Scriptures. He connects the Bible together from end to end. The purpose of the entire Bible is to reveal God’s glory; glory revealed in his Son.
That’s exactly what Peter witnessed. He simply says: “You don’t have to take my word for it; turn to the Scriptures.” And when we turn to the Bible we see that what Peter witnessed was the truth. God promised to send his Son, and he has come. Christ came in order to reveal God’s glory, namely, to win our salvation. We are God’s glory. His Son makes us into his glorious children, and we will share that glory with him forever. God’s Word promises it from beginning to end.
We are witnesses to this because we have God’s Word. We witness God’s glory every time we open our Bibles. Whenever we meditate on God’s Word, we are witnesses to his glory. Whenever you share a Bible story with your child you are a witness to God’s glory. Whenever you go to God in prayer and pour your heart out to him, you are a witness to his glory. When you tell a hurting friend about the love of Jesus, you are a witness to his glory. We share the things we have seen, just as the apostles did. We witness to the fact that these words are the truth! It is here that God reveals his glory to us in his Word.
Peter encourages us to be witnesses to God’s Word. Notice how he urges us to do this: “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.” We cannot ignore God’s Word. We are to pay attention to it, to hold on to it. The Word of God is like a lamp that shines in a dark place. It shines in the murky places of our lives. Our lives become dim and murky when we try to grab all the glory for ourselves. Quite often we are tempted to shine first in our lives. We want to be #1; we want to the glory now; we want this home to be our heaven. When we are tempted to think that way, we dim our hope in the Lord’s return. But then the lamp of God’s Word shines upon us and keeps our hope alive until Jesus comes.
The soft glow of God’s Word will comfort and sustain us through all the ups and downs this life may bring. The Word of God will never fail. There’s a story about tour guide who worked at Mammoth Cave. He led a group of tourists to a section of the cave called, “The Cathedral”. It was named that because it resembled the inside of a church. There was also a rock called, “The Pulpit.” The tour guide mounted the rock and said that he was going to preach a short sermon.
It was short. All he said was “Keep close to your guide.” It was a wise message. If the tourists didn’t follow it, they could easily get lost in the dark, or fall off an unseen ledge. Sometimes we’re tempted to go through life with our own lights, our own glory. All too often we fall into the darkness. So, keep hold of the lamp of God’s Word. Keep close to your Guide. And as you do, God will lead you to see that you are a witness of his glory and a witness to his Word. God’s glory will guide you. His glory will shine upon you. You are glorified because you are redeemed in the blood of Christ. That means you can shine! You can shine with the glory of the Transfiguration because it is the same glory revealed on Easter and on into eternity. God’s glory is your glory. And we have all been made witnesses to that truth. Amen.