2 Peter 1:16-21
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Peter was one of the three eyewitnesses. He is the only one who wrote of it. James the apostle didn’t leave anything written. (The James who wrote is the brother of Our Lord, not one of the Twelve apostles.) Peter wrote only these two letters. John wrote a Gospel. But he only alludes to the Transfiguration when speaking about how in Jesus we have seen God’s glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. So listen to Him.
This God-Man, must be listened to. Just one week before Peter had confessed to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus responds, “Blessed are you Simon for this is revealed by my Father in heaven.” Such knowledge, such belief only comes from God. Men in the deceitful, craftiness of their hearts will either contrive clever myths or they will pick at any little detail which gets them out of believing in the God-Man who must be listened to. Peter had that gift, the faith which the Church is built on. Faith which confesses, “You are the Christ. The saviour. The Son of God.”
But Peter also was a sinner. The next thing the Lord tells them is how as the Messiah He will be put to death for world’s sins, and would rise again. This didn’t match Peter’s sinful desires to be connected to the Mighty One with all the privileges that might afford when Our Lord revealed Himself to the rest of the world. Peter rebukes Our Lord for talking as though He would die. And Our Lord rebukes Peter, “Get behind me Satan. This did not come from God but from man.”
Six full days after this is the Transfiguration. Six days is the amount of time it took God to create the world. Day six was the day on which God made man. Day seven, the day God rested from all His work of creating became known as the Lord’s Day. And six days passing, on the seventh day this God-man takes them up a high mountain to show that though He is a man come to die He is God Almighty. So He metamorphesizes in front of their eyes shining with the burning light of the sun, the glory that is His as the great I AM, God Almighty. And it is God Almighty from whom comes all physical and spiritual rest.
Peter is impressed. But just as one week before his next words do not come from God, so he launches in again, “Lord, you were right in bringing us here. This is good. But you know what would be better is if you would let me build you and Moses, and Elijah three tents so that we might all stay here, so that I might bask in this glorious sight.” And secretly in his heart Peter might have been thinking about how he would glory in telling of how he met the greats of their faith, Moses and Elijah.
This time it’s God the Father, who revealed in Peter’s heart that Jesus was His Son, who suddenly shows up to rebuke Peter. He shows up in the thundering cloud of His presence that terrified the Israelites when it covered the top of Mt. Sinai and He envelopes them. He declares, “This is my Son. My beloved, the one I choose to be Messiah. Listen to Him.”
This rebuke is much sharper than the one Our Lord gave Peter. For this rebuke strikes all three to ground in terror. It was the same voice, and the exact same words John, who had been a disciple of John the Baptizer, had heard when Our Lord had been baptized. “This is My Son, My beloved, the one whom I choose.” But this time the Heavenly Father adds the rebuke and the instruction to Peter to “listen to Him.” Put aside your sinful pride, your desire to name drop and be considered a somebody and LISTEN! Listen to my Son, my chosen saviour. For He has come to be your salvation.
In an instant the cloud disperses, the glory, and raw, terrifying power of God Almighty is gone. And there is no one but the man Jesus at their side. He takes hold of them just as terror had gripped their hearts saying, “Rise, have no fear.” In essence He says, “I forgive you your sin. Neither I nor my Father will strike you dead.” And as they lift their eyes there is no one there but the One they must listen to. The one who speaks their salvation.
And He says the strangest thing, a thing now quite welcome to their ears, “Tell no one of this, until I have risen from the dead.” This time there is no rebuke from Peter about such death talk. Just the humble, listening ears of faith. And Peter tells us, “We did not invent this.” For if he had, he wouldn’t have made myself such a fool. He would have been the hero of the story, not the buffoon. No, this is what happened. And this is merely what the Scriptures have always said. For Our Lord is the great I AM who spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai, He came as a man to die on another mountain for sinners like Peter, and you, and me. And He uses His mighty power to take hold of you in Baptism, to cast out sin, and fear, and the deceitful foolishness of our hearts, and to fill them with righteousness, faith, confidence, and His Holy Spirit. He comes to you in His Supper to take hold of you from the inside out as He physically comes to live in your body. So listen to His word of salvation which leads, guides, forgives, and opens the door to the Father’s glory for you. For on the last day He will take you by the hand and say, “Rise, have no fear,” as He brings you in to bask in the glorious light of His Father.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON