************ Sermon on 2 Peter 1:16-18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 20, 2020
2 Peter 1:16-19
"We Were Eyewitnesses of His Majesty"
Remember the outline of Peter's second letter? He tells us four things we need to know to fight false teachers and false prophets: we need to know Salvation, Scripture, Satan, Sanctification. We've looked at salvation. Today we turn to Scripture. To fight false teachers and false prophets we need to know Scripture; we need to know the Bible. That's why we preach the Word in this church. That's why we have Sunday School and Catechism and Bible Study. That's why we promote Christian schooling from grade school through institutions of higher learning.
I Cleverly Invented Stories
A Peter starts today's Bible reading with the cleverly invented stories of the false teachers and false prophets::
(2 Pet 1:16) We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty."Cleverly invented stories." Made up. Invented. Intended to deceive. The Greek word for "story" is "muthos" -- the root of our word "myth." The false teachers and prophets taught cleverly invented myths to get people to follow them, to make money, to gain sexual favors, to accumulate power and prestige and popularity.
B "Cleverly invented stories." What kind of stories is Peter talking about? If we look ahead to chapter 3, we see that the false teachers claimed the kingdom of God would never come (2 Peter 3:3ff). These false teachers denied the promise of Christ’s second coming!
At the time of Peter there were all sorts of cleverly invented stories about Jesus:
-Jesus was not God
-Jesus was not man
-Jesus was not born of a virgin
-Jesus was not the Messiah
-Jesus did many miracles as a toddler or young boy
-Jesus did not die for our sins
-Jesus did not arise from the grave
-we need to add our works to the work of Jesus in order to be saved
There is more. There were cleverly invented stories about angels and other spiritual beings. Stories were even invented about Moses, Daniel, and other Old Testament saints.
C A lot of cleverly invented stories today are exactly the same as at the time of Peter. In seminary I learned about theologians who demythologize the Bible. How do they do this? By taking out of the Bible anything spectacular and miraculous. They aren't left with much of a Bible. Even many psalms don't make it because they mention specific miraculous acts of God.
There is a show on TV called "Ancient Aliens." The show's producers take the approach that the spectacular events of the Old Testament are best explained by aliens: Noah's ark, the Tower of Babel, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Egyptian pyramids, the walls of Jericho, the death of Goliath. To credit all of this to ancient aliens is what? It is a cleverly invented story.
D "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Peter is not like the false prophets and false teachers. Nothing mythological about what he wrote and said. Nothing made up. It is the truth. You can depend on what he said and wrote.
A But now a question: how do we know what Peter writes is trustworthy and true? How do we know we can trust what Peter says? There are lots of voices, lots of religions, lots of teachers and preachers, lots of opinions and blogs. Who do we believe and why? Or, to extend the scope, how do we know what the Old Testament prophets wrote was true? How do we know we can believe what is in the Bible? Is the Bible a book of lies? Or, is it a sure and certain Word?
Peter gives us two answers: today, a supernatural experience; next week, a supernatural revelation.
In talking about the supernatural experience, Peter writes, "we were eyewitnesses." "We." Who are the eyewitnesses? It is Peter, James, and John. "We." Remember what the Bible says about eyewitnesses? In both the Old and New Testaments, two or three witnesses are required to establish that evidence is reliable. Not one. Never one. Evidence is established by two or three (Deut 17:6; Mt 18:16; 2 Cor 13:1; Heb 10:28). So, when Jesus sent out the seventy-two, how did He send them? Didn't He send them in thirty-six groups of two (Lk 10)?
Remember what happened with Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh? Christine Ford claimed she was assaulted by him. But there were no witnesses. A couple of weeks ago, President Trump was accused of saying U.S. soldiers injured and killed in war were losers. This headline was based upon the testimony of one man.
In contrast to this, Peter writes "we." "We were eyewitnesses." This is not second-hand material Peter is writing and preaching. This is not hearsay. This is not rumor. This is not another myth or cleverly invented stories. What he writes is something the three of them have seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears.
"We were eyewitnesses." By implication Peter is saying the false teachers and prophets were not eyewitnesses. They weren't there. They didn't see. They didn't hear. They weren't observers or spectators as were Peter, James, and John.
B "We were eyewitnesses." Of what? "We were eyewitnesses of his majesty." The Greek word for "majesty" is "megaleiotes." You have heard the word "mega" before: megabyte, megawatt, megalith, megalopolis, etc. It means a whole great big bunch of something. In this case, Jesus has a whole great big bunch of majesty, splendor, honor, glory, grandeur. Peter writes, "we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." That is, "we told you about His majesty." I like how John puts this at the start of his gospel:
(Jn 1:14) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."We were eyewitnesses of his majesty." "We have seen his glory." They saw it during all His time on earth.
C So, what did they see? Let's start with Christ's baptism. They saw heaven open and the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. They heard a voice, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Mt 3:16-17).
They were eyewitnesses to His miracles. Remember what was said about His miracle of changing water into wine?
(Jn 2:11) This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
They were eyewitnesses to His death. Remember what the Roman Centurion said at the cross? "Surely he was the son of God!" (Mt 27:54).
They were eyewitnesses to His glorious resurrection. Remember, to be an apostle you needed to be a witness to the resurrection.
They watched and saw as He ascended into the glory of heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father.
They heard the majesty of His words. His teaching. His words of compassion and love. His prayers to the Father. His love and respect for His mother.
Yes, they were eyewitnesses of His majesty. So when Peter, James, John and the rest of the apostles tell us Jesus was majestic, this was based on firsthand experience. This was not hearsay. They were eyewitnesses.
III The Transfiguration
A "We were eyewitnesses of his majesty." "We have seen his glory." There is one event I have not yet mentioned. It is the event Peter mentions. In Peter's mind this event especially displays the majesty and glory of Jesus. Listen to what Peter writes:
(2 Pet 1:17) For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory ...
Note what Peter calls God the Father: "Majestic Glory." What a description of God! The phrase is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Deut 33:26). It is a substitute for the name of God. Remember, the Jews did not say the name of God; they had many substitutes they used instead; and, one of the most beautiful was the phrase "Majestic Glory." In the Greek this is another "mega" word indicating the splendor, grandeur, honor, glory, and majesty of God the Father. So, the Majestic Glory gave majesty to Jesus. Peter specifies that God the Father gave honor and glory to Jesus. Honor means exalted status. Glory means radiant splendor.
B When was this? When did Jesus receive glory and honor from the Majestic Glory? Peter is thinking of the Transfiguration. When we think of the Transfiguration we tend to emphasize the appearance of Jesus: "the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning" (Lk 9:29). Peter emphasizes not what he saw but what he heard:
(2 Pet 1:17-18) For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (18) We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.I find Peter's emphasis somewhat ironic. Because Peter described himself in verse 16 as an eyewitness. That means sight. That means what he saw. Yet, what Peter actually emphasizes is the voice that he heard. So, let's make up a new word and say Peter is an earwitness. Peter heard the voice of the Majestic Glory.
What can we say about the voice of God? It is powerful because it spoke all of creation into being (Gen 1). It is terrifying because it shook Mount Sinai (Ex 20:18-19). In John's gospel it is described as thunder (Jn 12:29). The psalmist describes the voice of God this way:
(Ps 29:3-9) The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters. (4) The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. (5) The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon ... (7) The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning. (8) The voice of the LORD shakes the desert; the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh. (9) The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, "Glory!"That's what the voice of God does. That's what the voice of God is like.
C So, what is so great about the Transfiguration? Why would Peter select this event to especially display the majesty of Jesus, the honor and glory of Jesus? Well, listen again to what the thunderous voice says: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." I want you to consider everything the Majestic Glory is actually saying about Jesus. The Majestic Glory affirms Jesus is God. The Majestic Glory affirms Jesus is sinless. The Majestic Glory affirms the perfection of Jesus' work. Who is Jesus? The Majestic Glory in His thunderous voice states Jesus is God, Jesus is perfect, Jesus also is the Majestic Glory. The Transfiguration shows Jesus is King, Jesus rules, Jesus is Sovereign, Jesus is Lord. The Transfiguration shows the Kingdom is coming in all its fullness because the King is already here. What Peter heard is emphasized by what he saw: the appearance of Jesus' face, the clothes as bright as lightning, the appearance of Moses and Elijah representing all the law and the prophets.
D Now, do you remember what Moses and Elijah did when they appeared? They talked with Jesus about His departure. They talked with Jesus about His upcoming crucifixion and death (Lk 9:31).
Peter doesn't understand this. How can the Majesty go to the cross and the grave? So the gospels record that Peter wanted to build a booth, a tabernacle, a tent, for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah to stay in (Lk 9:33; Mt 16:4). But they couldn't stay. That wasn't the plan. Jesus must die and rise and depart to bring in the Kingdom.
God interrupted while Peter was speaking. Do you remember what God said after He affirmed who Jesus is? He said, "Listen to him" (Lk 1:35). If Jesus is the Majestic Glory who the Transfiguration shows He is, listen to Him!
Listen to Him when He tells you He will suffer and die. Listen to Him when He tells you He will rise again. Listen to Him when He tells you He is departing. Listen to Him when He tells you He will come again in glory. "Listen to him."
Do you think Peter ever forgot what he saw that day? Of course not. It stuck with him forever. He did what God said: he listened to Him!
And now Peter speaks to his audience and he speaks to us about what he heard. Peter is saying, "It is true what we say about Jesus: His is majesty, His is honor, His is glory, His is power, His is kingdom. Moses affirmed this. Elijah affirmed this. God, the Majestic Glory, affirmed this. I was there and saw this and heard this. I was an eyewitness. I was an earwitness."
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page