Sermon for March 6, 2011

2 Peter 1:16-21 (Transfiguration of Our Lord—Series A)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

March 6, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is the Epistle Lesson for Transfiguration Sunday from 2 Peter 1:

For 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. For 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,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that 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.

There are a number of perspectives on Jesus out there in our world today.  Buddhists consider Jesus to be a wise and enlightened man who taught things similar to the Buddha.  Islam teaches that Jesus was a true prophet sent by God, but was superseded by Muhammad.  Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that Jesus is an archangel, God’s first creation.  Mormons maintain that Jesus was originally one of the spirit beings that all humans used to be, but with a physical body.  Hinduism teaches that Jesus was a wise man or just an incarnation of God similar to Krishna.  And of course, there is the Christian faith that teaches that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary.

So who’s right? Is Jesus the only Son of God and Savior of people or are there other options available to us?  As we have already heard, there a quite a few ways of looking at Jesus.  So how do we know which one to follow?

On the one hand we have Jesus as a teacher, a prophet, a really nice guy.  His purpose in life was to teach humanity about God, provide a model for right living, or teach people wisdom and the way to enlightenment.  From this perspective there is no value in Jesus as a Savior from sin, Satan, and death.  Here there is nothing to be rescued from.  There are no spiritual consequences for actions that might go against Jesus’ teachings.  After all, Jesus was just merely a really good person.  IF that’s the case, then it’s no harm, no foul.  Whether or not I follow Jesus’ teachings or believe in Him in any way becomes irrelevant to my life.  If there is nothing to be saved from, I don’t need a Savior.  If there is nothing to be rescued from, then I don’t need to look to Jesus.  With or without Jesus, nothing changes.  If there is an afterlife, I can attain to the good stuff by being a decent person.  If there isn’t an afterlife, then it really doesn’t matter anyhow.

On the other hand, however, what if Jesus really is the Son of God?  What if He really is the Savior of the world?  What if there really are spiritual consequences for sin that would mean after this life I spend eternity in hell, but I had the chance of escaping that horrible future and didn’t take it?  If the whole “Jesus thing” is a cleverly devised myth and I believe it, I’ve got nothing to lose.  If it’s all made up and there is no need for salvation because there is no hell and I’ve believe it any way, then nothing happens.  But . . . but if the whole “Jesus thing” is true and I don’t believe it, I lose everything—soul and body in eternal torment and suffering.

Choices, choices, choices.  So many versions of Jesus out there, which one to go with?  There are some good logical reasons for picking one way of thinking and believing over another, but it would be better if there was something more definitive.  You know, I’d like substantial proof, maybe eyewitness testimony.  But we don’t have that, do we?

Actually, we do.  Our Epistle lesson this morning was written down by one of those eyewitnesses of Jesus.  Peter was there with Jesus on the mountain when He was transfigured.  Peter was there when the face of Jesus’ shown like the sun and His clothes became white as light.  Peter was there when Moses and Elijah appeared, talking to Jesus.  Peter was there when he said, “Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  And Peter was there and heard the voice of God the Father speak from the bright cloud, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”

Peter was an eyewitness of the majesty of the Son of God and he tells us so!  Peter says, “What I preach to you about Christ and His coming, the Gospel we proclaim, has not been made up or invented by us.  Nor has it been taken from clever writers of myths, who know how to speak splendidly about everything.  For these are purely fables, fairy tales, and idle talk, which they cleverly fabricate and in which they try to be wise.  We did not listen to such people.  Nor did we follow them.  We are certain our message is from God.  We saw it with our eyes and heard it with our ears when we were on the mountain with Christ and beheld and saw His glory.  The whole purpose of my preaching is to make your conscience sure and to give your heart a firm footing from which it should not permit itself to be torn, in order that both you and I may be certain that we have God’s Word.  For the Gospel is serious business.  It must be grasped and retained in all purity, without any addition or false doctrine.” (Luther)

The Buddha was not an eyewitness of Jesus Christ.  Muhammad was not an eyewitness of Jesus Christ.  Charles Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, was not an eyewitness of Jesus.  Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism—not an eyewitness of Christ.  Whose word are we going to trust?  The word of an eyewitness or someone else?

But Peter is even willing the yield his status as an eyewitness to a testimony greater than his own.  He says, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word.”  In other words, “If you don’t believe me, search the Scriptures.”  God’s Word confirms the entire apostolic witness of Christ.  What was prophesied and promised in the First Testament was fulfilled in the New Testament by only one—the God-Man Jesus Christ.  He is the One of whom Moses spoke as the “Greater Moses.”  Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the Law of Moses.  Jesus brought to completion all that the prophets like Elijah announced.  Christ rescued us from the power of sin, death, and the devil.  Christ is the Suffering Servant promised by Isaiah who was stricken, smitten, and afflicted, dying on the tree of the cross to pay for my sins and your sins and the very real sins of every person.

Don’t believe me?  Search the Scriptures.  Biblical authors didn’t write what they thought or how they interpreted the times.  They weren’t out to publish a best-seller.  They wrote what God the Holy Spirit inspired them to write for their time and for all time.  “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.”  “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

And in the fullness of time, God’s eternal Word became flesh and tented among us.  Jesus Christ, the Word of God, became incarnate.  And what does St. John write?  “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)  Peter, James, and John saw the transfigured Lord and heard the Father’s pronouncement.  The apostles and more than 500 disciples saw the risen Lord Jesus in the forty days after Easter.  They saw Jesus’ bodily ascension into heaven.  And by the power of the Holy Spirit, these New Testament men of God, like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and David of the First Testament, wrote down God’s Word for us and for our salvation.

There is, then, only one answer to who is right and what we should believe about Jesus.  God is right and we are to believe the words and promises that He Himself has given to us.  We are to believe the words of the prophets and the apostles who wrote down the God-breathed words of promise for us to receive and to believe by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This Word gives us faith in Jesus as our Majestic God, not only pointing us to Jesus as Lord and Savior, but giving us the very blessings that Christ won for us on the cross—forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  God gave us His Word to save us—His Word made flesh in Christ and His Word written and proclaimed to give us the gifts of Christ.

The Word of God guides and directs us in the paths of righteousness like a light shining in a dark and murky place.  It is a Word that is useful and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness so that the child of God might be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16)  And it is a Word that must be shared.

We read in 2 Timothy 4, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:1-4)

People need to know Jesus Christ—the Christ of the Holy Scriptures.  People need to know who Jesus really is, what He alone has done to rescue them from sin and everlasting death, so that they might be saved.  By the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word, you also have become eyewitnesses of Jesus through faith.  You know Jesus Christ and His love, forgiveness, and salvation.  Share the message; share the Word of God so that there can be no doubt that God Himself is right about Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen

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