The Transfiguring Word

Sermon from 2 Peter 1:12-21

A phrase commonly heard in our world today is “fake news.” It means we are skeptical when people tell us something is true – we don’t actually believe it. It turns out that “fake news” may be a new phrase, but it’s not a new idea.

Humanity has always had teachers and prophets telling both truth and falsehood, and we have to discern who is telling us the truth and who is telling us “fake news.” It is easy for us to be deceived. We have to make sure to place our faith in what is true.

Peter addresses this issue in his second letter. He says at the beginning, “we did not follow cleverly devised myths” (2 Peter 1:16). Apparently, some people were accusing Peter of spreading “fake news!” But instead, he says that his testimony is confirmed as true, since he and many others were eyewitnesses.

He was so convinced of not only the truth, but also the importance of his message, that he wrote out his testimony for future generations to have a record of the truth. He referred to the amazing event he was an eyewitness to, the Transfiguration of Jesus (v. 17-18).

Peter saw, with his very own eyes, the shining glory of Jesus as his divinity was revealed on the Mount of Transfiguration (as recounted in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9). It’s not insignificant that, in that moment, he suggested setting up tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. It is reminiscent of when Moses encountered the glory of God in the book of Exodus, when Moses set up a tent to meet with the revealed glory of God and then came out with his face radiant with the reflected glory of God (Exodus 34).

In the same way that no one could doubt the authority of Moses after he encountered God in the Old Testament, Peter claims the same authority based on his eyewitness of the Transfiguration. The prophetic word Peter writes is backed up by the authority of the King of kings.

I can personally testify to the power of the authentic Word when it is preached. I grew up in spiritless Episcopalian churches and at an Episcopal school, where the preaching was so false, boring, and dry that more children walked out of there atheists than believers. But then when I was in college, a friend invited me to his Episcopal church, where the head pastor was someone who actually taught the living and active Word of God. He was clearly proclaiming the truth. I saw for myself the power of the authentic Word of God, and I saw many lives changed through that teaching – including my own.

Every place where the Word of God is faithfully taught, Peter says it is like a “light shining in a dark place.” Peter goes on to say that it is the same as when “the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). The prophetic Word of God is not the word of mere man. It the Word of God, as revealed by the Holy Spirit.

In addition to the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus, that Greek word that is translated “transfigured” is used twice more in Scripture, both times by the Apostle Paul:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed [transfigured] by the renewal of your mind…

Romans 12:2

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed [transfigured] into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

It is by encountering the glorious truth of God, through his Word powerfully impacting our minds by his Spirit, that we are transformed, transfigured, metamorphosed into his image day by day. This is God’s desire for each of us.