2 Peter 1:16-21
For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty…
Once upon a time there was a young boy standing at the top of the water slide, scared out of his mind. As he stood there and stared down at the rushing water and the ribbon of twists and turns he had a ton of questions for the lifeguard seated there. “Are you sure this thing is safe? What if I get going too fast? Do you know how to do CPR? Will there be somebody waiting to catch me at the bottom?”
The lifeguard patiently answered every question with repeated assurances about how safe the ride was and that yes, in fact, she knew CPR and there would be somebody waiting at the bottom. So the boy gingerly stepped onto the slide, sat down, and pushed off. That boy had always wanted to go down the slide, but he just needed that extra assurance in order to be able to step out and actually give it a try.
How about you? Do you stand at the top of life’s waterslide and become uncertain with all the twists and turns that lie ahead? “What if I’m taking on too much? What if I take one of life’s turns too fast and go flying?” Do you look at the darkness and uncertainty in your own life and wonder whether or not the Lord is still there for you—if He’s going to be there to catch you at the end of all this? Do you find yourself needing that extra assurance from God?
So it was for Peter as he wrote his second letter. It was a dark time. First there were three; now there were two. Herod had already put James to death already years earlier, so now Peter and John were the only ones left. And Peter himself knew that the end of his own journey was coming, just as Jesus had said it would. Yet Peter looked ahead to that uncertain future with confidence because he had certain assurances that went back all the way to that day when he was on that mountain of glory with James, John, and Jesus. He had the Twin Transfiguration Assurances. And Peter shares those assurances with us: assurances (I) about the Bible and (II) about Jesus.
About the Bible.
People in the world often accuse the Bible of being made-up. Atheists will look at the account of Scripture, particularly the account of Jesus’ life, death , and resurrection and talk about it as a “fairy tale.” Academics will look at the stories recorded in the Bible and will identify them as “fables,” stories meant to teach people how to be moral or how to be wise. Experts in world religions—some of whom call themselves Christian—look at the words of Scripture and label it all as “mythology,” putting it in the same realm as the stories about the Zeus and Hera and all the Greek gods and goddesses, equating the account of Noah and the flood with other flood tales from other cultures.
Yet Peter speaks plainly about the authorship—and the truth—of the Bible, doesn’t he? When it came what Peter and James and John and the other disciples had to say about Jesus, they weren’t making it up! “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 16). Peter didn’t sit down one day and decide that he was going to come up with his own religion for people to follow. And neither did the Old Testament prophets who had come hundreds of years before him: “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man” (v. 20-21). The words of the prophets could not have been made up either—otherwise each one would have had his own interpretation, his own opinion, about who the Messiah was going to be and what he was going to do.
In fact, when you look at the books of Scripture—particularly the books of the New Testament—you see that they are primarily eyewitness accounts. Peter says of himself and the other disciples, “we… were eyewitness of His majesty” (v. 16). Peter, James, and John together had heard that same voice from heaven when they were with Jesus on the Mount of Glory (v. 18). And together had witnessed many other events that were also seen by hundreds, if not thousands, of other people. There was Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River and the events that happened there. There was the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 with a few loaves and small fish. There were all the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. And there was His resurrection too—they had seen Him, as the apostle Paul says, one time even with five hundred other witnesses present (1 Cor 15:6). Time and again Peter, John, and the other apostles draw on the fact that they saw and heard Jesus in person not only in terms of what happened, but also in the meaning behind what Jesus did.
And for Peter, because of the Transfiguration, the words of the prophets are reliable too. He points out that they are divinely inspired, that “prophecy never came by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (v. 21). The ship of Old Testament prophecy was not self-propelled, but its sails were filled by the Spirit’s divine wind, a divine wind that finds its fulfillment in the coming of Christ. “And so,” Peter says, “we have the prophetic word confirmed” (v. 19). Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on that mountain—witnessing the fulfillment of what they had spoken so many years before. There standing with them was the greater prophet that Moses had spoken of (Dt 18:15); the glory of the LORD was seen by these men in the person of Jesus.
So when it comes to our own need for assurance, we do well to heed the words of Scripture as Peter says: “as a light shining in a dark place” (v. 19). Criminals breaking into a building, if they’re smart, they smash the lights around the building because they want to operate under the cover of darkness. They don’t want others to see the evil that they do. And so it is with the entire world; that’s why so many try to dismiss God’s Word as something people made up. They’re trying to escape the light of God’s truth by shooting out the lights. They don’t want the light of God’s Word to expose their sinful hearts.
But you and I know better. You and I know that God’s Word is the light of the world. That it’s God’s own divinely inspired truth. We also know that it’s in the light where we find true life—that it’s in the light of God’s Word that we come to know the seriousness of our sin and the daily need to repent. And we come to know and trust what God’s Word says about how He has dealt with that sin—which takes us to our other twin assurance that Peter leads us to in the Transfiguration.
- About Jesus.
What did Peter, James, and John see and hear that day on the Mount of Glory as eyewitnesses of His majesty? The power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: “For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (v. 17).
They saw and heard the “power” of Christ—the power of who Jesus is; that He is the true and only-begotten Son of God. And that’s really the point of all the eyewitness testimony about Jesus: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20).
It’s also the point of all the Old Testament writers too. By the Spirit’s inspiration, the prophets of old nailed it when they spoke of the power and coming of Christ. They showed that the Christ—though He would be glorious—would not come in glory, but in suffering. And so Jesus, when He revealed His glory on that mountain, revealed that He would fulfill every last detail of their words about the son of Eve who would come to crush the serpent’s head. Jesus is the one David’s talking about in Psalm 22, the one who is stretched out and his clothes divided. Jesus is Isaiah’s suffering servant by whose stripes we are healed. Jesus is the fulfillment of the new covenant that Jeremiah spoke of. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (1 Peter 1:12).
So today, as we think about the Transfiguration of Jesus and its assurances, we find that really, the Transfiguration gets us ready for what’s coming. Lent is right around the corner. Kind of a dark time in the church. Yet because of Peter’s eyewitness account of the Transfiguration and its fulfillment of Scripture, we are assured in Lent that the Jesus we see suffer and die was not just any person being pointlessly executed, but that He goes to His death willingly, lovingly as our Savior—the sinless son of God whose blood purifies us from all sin.
And because of the assurances we have about the Bible and who Jesus is, we are ready for what’s coming in life too. We all have our crosses to bear in life, things that fill surround us with darkness and uncertainty. Yet no matter how dark things are getting for you, you have the assurance and the light of what God says about the glory of Christ. Jesus is coming again in that same glory. And when He comes, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Cor 15:52). And when He comes, we will also appear with Him in glory (Col 3:4).
With those twin assurances—about the Bible and about Jesus—you too can step out onto life’s waterslide, sit down, and push off. You can enjoy the ride, trusting that Christ will be there through all the twists and turns. And when you get to the end, He’ll be there waiting to catch you—with a grace and glory beyond your imagination. Amen.