Summary: Transfiguration and Resurrection - Why we believe
2 Peter 1:16-25 (New International Reader’s Version)
16 We told you about the time our Lord Jesus Christ came with power. But we didn’t make up stories when we told you about it. With our own eyes we saw him in all his majesty. 17 God the Father gave him honor and glory. The voice of the Majestic Glory came to him. It said, "This is my Son, and I love him. I am very pleased with him."(Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35) 18 We ourselves heard the voice that came from heaven. We were with him on the sacred mountain.
19 The word of the prophets is made more certain. We have that word. You must pay attention to it. It is like a light shining in a dark place. It will shine until the day Jesus comes. Then the Morning Star will rise in your hearts.
20 Above all, here is what you must understand. No prophecy in Scripture ever came from a prophet’s own understanding. 21 It never came simply because a prophet wanted it to. Instead, the Holy Spirit guided the prophets as they spoke. So prophecy comes from God.
The temporary Sunday School teacher was struggling to open a combination lock on the supply cabinet. She had been told the combination, but couldn’t quite remember it.
She went to the pastor’s study and asked for help. The pastor came into the room and began to turn the dial.
After the first two numbers he paused and stared blankly for a moment.
Finally he looked serenely heavenward and his lips moved silently.
Then he looked back at the lock, and quickly turned to the final number, and opened the lock.
The teacher was amazed. "I’m in awe at your faith, pastor," she said.
"It’s really nothing," he answered. "The number is on a piece of tape on the ceiling."
Sometimes we have to dig into things a bit before we understand what is going on.
Peter raises that question for us today. How do we know? Here we are proclaiming a message that seems fantastic. We even call this message miraculous. People ask us how they are supposed to believe such a thing. Do they have to leave their intellects and rationality at the door? Or is the message that we proclaim consistent with rational thought, even if it is grounded in something beyond the bounds of our science?
Peter is asked that question. He is living in the context of life-threatening persecution. The passage immediately before our text for today has Peter thinking about his own death. He is telling us what gives him the courage to risk his life for the gospel. It is an uncommon glimpse into the mind of a martyr.
This passage has even more impact when we recognize that Peter’s fears were fully justified. It is not in the New Testament, but history tells us that Peter was captured by the Romans and crucified. Tradition tells us that Peter, feeling unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus, asked to be crucified upside down. There is no question that Peter believed and lived by what he taught.
Here, in his second letter to the faithful, Peter gives us a reason for his surety. He points to the transfiguration as proof of the gospel. I don’t know about you, but that strikes me as a bit odd. Peter was a witness to the resurrection.
Let me read a passage from I Corinthians for you. Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth is actually older than any of the four gospels. And here, we are reading, not something that Paul wrote himself, but something that was an established and formalized teaching of the church - Something that Paul himself had been taught soon after he came to faith. Listen to his words.
I Cor 15: 3-7. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
This early confession of the church speaks clearly about a special appearance of the risen Christ to Peter, before Christ appears to the apostles as a group. Strangely, though this appearance had to be well known in the church, it is never described in the gospels. More than that, Peter himself doesn’t mention it here. Wouldn’t you? If the risen Christ had made a special and particular appearance to you, isn’t that the experience that you would point to as proof of the gospel. Peter never describes this appearance in either of his letters and nothing is known about it beyond what is said in that early church confession. Maybe that experience was just too personal for Peter to relate to others.