If you have ever witnessed an accident, or been in a court case to hear the testimony about an accident, you know that the witnesses to that one accident can have very different accounts. Some of that is influenced by where they were when it happened. Were they in one of the cars? Were they nearby? Were they far away? Some of it is influenced by when they saw what they saw. Did they see the whole thing start to finish? Did they turn when they heard tires screeching? Did they look only after they heard the crash? Some of the testimony is influenced by the personality and the opinions of the witnesses. What are their feelings toward the people in the wreck? Are they the kind of people who are quick to assign blame? Are they the kind of folks who are compassionate to a fault?
Any number of things can affect how we interpret what we have experienced. It’s why Jesus promised His disciples that when it came time to write of their experiences with Him, that the Holy Spirit would give them guidance to keep their accounts accurate and true. (See John 14:26.)
The last paragraph of 2 Peter 1 (verses 16-21) have as their subject the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Three of the four gospels cover it: Matthew 17:1ff; Mark 9:2-8; and Luke 9:28-36. John only references it in John 1:14 when he says “we beheld His glory.” Like, John, Peter was one of the three disciples (James being the other) who actually witnessed the Transfiguration and they were sworn to secrecy about it until after the Lord had been resurrected. But what was the significance of it? The Transfiguration is significant for three reasons:
One, it was an affirmation of Peter’s testimony in Matthew 16:13-16 where Peter declared: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16b). In reward for his faith, Peter was one of the three who got to see Christ transformed because faith is often rewarded with affirmation.
Second, it was the Father’s show of solidarity with the Son. Not long after the Transfiguration, Jesus would be crucified and for three terrible hours, the Father and the Son would be separated from one another: “My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me!” (Jesus crying out to God in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). During the Transfiguration God declared: “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17). Those words of affirmation were as much for Jesus as they were for His disciples. The Father wanted His Son to know that no matter what was about to transpire, He still loved His Son and was proud of Him!
Finally, and this is where it bears significance in this epistle, it was an affirmation of the promised kingdom. Each time it is mentioned in the synoptic gospels the Transfiguration is preceded by statements about the kingdom of God. (Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27) Jesus even promised during his earthly ministry there would be some in His presence who would actually see the kingdom. The Transfiguration was the fulfillment of that promise and proof positive that the Lord will indeed establish His kingdom on earth. Peter uses that event to refute the false teachers who were saying that the kingdom would never come and that Christ would never return to establish a kingdom. There are those who make that claim today as if they were making some bold new discovery. It’s old fake news.
Peter says “we have not followed cunningly devised fables” (1:16a) and adds that we have something more sure than his own personal Transfiguration experience. We have the “sure word of prophecy” where we would do well to take heed (1:19). It’s Peter’s way of saying: “Don’t just rely on my experience. Look to everything that God has said in His Word.”
Peter under the guidance of the Holy Spirit gave us a clear accounting of what happened on that Transfiguration day, but he wants us to make sure that we are not building our faith on experiences. Our faith needs to stand on biblical fact.
Experiences can fade. God’s Word is sure. Experiences can be subjective. God’s Word is objective. Experiences can be interpreted in many different ways. God’s Word gives us one clear, consistent message.
Don’t get me wrong. I have heard many wonderful stories about people’s salvation experiences. I still remember the day I was saved and the feelings I had on that day, but my salvation is not based on my experience. It’s based on the facts of the gospel of Jesus Christ and my faith is built on His Word. Because what we have in Christ is better than just personal experience. We have the proven and reliable Word of God!
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