A rat’s nest of mangled, gnarled paper lied on the tabletop. Apparently, it was a book—and not just any book, but a Bible. Layers of tan cardboard streaked through the crumbling black leather cover. Gritty gray dust had turned once bright white pages golden-brown. Its outline formed a perfect ‘U’. Honestly, this Bible reached its end.
Still, the archivist hovered over this particular Bible. It had a special story. A congregation established in the 1860s had recently decided to replace their current church building with a newer, updated structure. So, construction began by tearing down the old building. The crane removed the steeple and peeled away the roof. A dozer knocked over brick walls and ripped away stairs. The equipment dug down to the cornerstone. That’s when workers found this Bible. But that’s where the story gets special. That rat’s nest of mangled, gnarled paper was not in the cornerstone, it was under the cornerstone. The congregation had literally made God’s Word their foundation.
God’s Word might not literally support the entire weight of a building, but it supports the people within the building. Hearts rely on every single promise inscribed in God’s book. Step off from that Word and you step off of our your foundation. Step off from your foundation, you abandon certain confidence. That’s why Peter writes for us today: Pay Attention to the Word! In that Word (1) The Father reveals his pleasure with Jesus. With that Word (2) The Holy Spirit carries our reliance on Jesus.
Familiar truths, yes, but truths under attack. You see, area preachers had mingled among these first-century Christians. They seize the opportunity to spew out delusions. One teacher denies the existence of angels, another openly mocks the work of God’s angels (2:10-11). Still another preacher preys on women in the congregation, seducing some, sexually assaulting others (2:14-16). Every preacher denies accountability; they fear no wrath (2:18-19). In fact, those arrogant brutes even taunt God: “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). Jesus promises a return. Yet, look around. Nothing happened. Since nothing happened, that promise must be false If that promise is false, then the Bible is not reliable. You cannot trust it.
So, Peter writes— and he writes about the Friend with whom he spent three years. He writes about the Friend he saw with his eyes, touched with his hands, and heard with ears. He writes about the Friend those so-called preachers never even met. [W]e did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ… Yes, you (and I) openly declare that Jesus will return— and he will judge the living and the dead.. This is not some fairy tale I concocted. This is not some legend my ancestors handed down. Jesus will return in mighty power because he holds mighty power.
How do you know? [W]e were eyewitnesses of his majesty. Now, when it comes to credible sources, the eyewitness is the very best, right? Archaeology relishes eyewitness accounts. History details what the eyewitness saw. Even the nightly news craves eyewitnesses! Has anyone ever shoved a news camera in your face for an accident you did not witness? Of course not! We always want to hear what people experience. If we were not present, then we rely on what the eyewitness says!
Peter says, ‘I saw his power!’ He stands with James and John… suddenly Jesus shines. No, the sun does not reflect off of him, Jesus literally radiates light. Ancient prophets Moses and Elijah appear. They huddle and discuss Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. Peter witnesses the awesome perfect glory Jesus possesses as God! (Matthew 17:1-9)
That’s not all he witnesses. [W]hen [Jesus] 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. Peter is also an earwitness! He hears The Father reveal his pleasure with Jesus.
Familiar truth, but so often attacked. Yes, attacked by so-called intellectuals who mock the truthfulness of the Bible. Yes, mocked by friends who consider the Bible ‘outdated’ and ‘corrupted.’ Yes, despised by the child, the spouse, the brother who claims to be too smart for church. Yet, what about you? Do you challenge the reliability of what Peter writes?
Stop for a moment. Dig into your heart. Study its fears, its reliance, its trust. Maybe you do feel like a madman claiming: ‘Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead.’ After all, he’s been gone for millennia! Every century waited for his return, but it seems like life will just continue on as it has always done. Maybe Jesus just will not return. Then, there’s those nights when you ache from guilt. ‘Will God really forgive me for not speaking up? … for not taking action?’ ‘Will God pull out the secret I have fought to hide my whole life and use it against me? …Is that really pardoned?’ On nights like those where do you find peaceful quiet?
The temptation always remains to place confidence in opinions and feelings and emotions. We create our own version of truth and begin believing the truth we made up. We question if God can really erase the past or we carry guilt thinking it’s too big for God to handle. We wonder if God truly controls this chaotic world. We place more trust in our Word than His Word. Really, that calls the Bible ‘A book of lies’ and God a ‘liar!’ It leaves us wallowing in fear!
That’s why Peter writes! In fact, he includes one tiny word. A word so little that you almost skip right over it. Verse 16 reads: For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ… Catch it? Our Lord Jesus Christ. The One Peter sees on the mountain, the testimony heard about Jesus reveals what he comes to do. ‘Our’ Lord will walk down this Mount of Transfiguration. ‘Our’ Lord will ride into Jerusalem one last time. ‘Our’ Lord will stand trial accused of lying— lying that he is God’s Son. ‘Our’ Lord will die for those who doubt his mighty power as God— even for our doubts.
Pay Attention to the Word! If you wonder if Jesus was truly without sin, then listen to The Father reveals his pleasure with Jesus. Watch the Father raise Jesus to life. Watch the Father receive Jesus into heaven’s kingdom and hand him the throne at his powerful right hand. Your Jesus is enough! The Father reveals his pleasure with Jesus. For those times we fear, those times we struggle, The Holy Spirit carries our reliance on Jesus. He uses something special to accomplish that goal.
[W]e have something more sure, the prophetic word… The entire Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi point to Jesus, the Savior. [Y]ou will do well to pay attention [to the Word] as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts… You need to enter the crawl space. You fling open the door. You feel wispy spider-webs and hear mice squeaking somewhere in the misty gloom. What will you carry along? A flashlight. Why? You do not want a face-full of spider web. You do not want to place your hand on a mouse. That light will guide you through the unknown to your goal. So, how tightly would you hold that light?
God’s Word shines through the unknown so that you (and I) might have confidence. [Know] 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. God gave his writers the thoughts and words to write down. Those words have been carefully copied from generation to generation so that your Bible today contains the same words that Jesus read and spoke 2,000 years ago. God takes great care so that you know his wants.
Over these past seven weeks, God has made clear who Jesus is. Today marks the end of Epiphany. (Remember what that word means? Epiphany means ‘to reveal.’) Jesus is baptized, clearly identifying him to be God’s Son. His Sermon on the Mount lists Beatitudes— statements of blessings. At first, we might think God challenges us to be better people. That’s not the point. God reveals Jesus, the best-est One who ever walked on earth. Even today, God reveals Jesus to be God. Perfect. Without sin. Pleasing.
Wednesday begins the season of Lent. For the next six weeks we will walk through the trials, the suffering, the shame Jesus endures. This brilliant glory might seem dim. Gloom will hang over our hearts. Yet, God’s Word, his Light, leads us through that solemn season. Jesus suffers— but keep in mind the ‘why.’ Why does he suffer? To remove eternal suffering from you (and me). He marches into the jaws of death and destroys the stranglehold it once held on you (and me). Then, he rises! Brilliant. Shining. Radiant. Handed the full glory once hidden for a time. Handed the full honor as Victor over our greatest enemies. With God’s flawlessly recorded Word, the Holy Spirit carries our reliance on Jesus.
Just as he did for that established congregation. For over 150-years hearts relied on the unchanging Word. Culture changed in both community and society. With it came fears over control, fear over personal choices, fear over the future. Yet, that Word pointed every heart to the Savior reigning with powerful might.
Step off from that Word and you step off of our your foundation. Step off from your foundation, you leave behind certain confidence. That’s why Peter writes for us today: Pay Attention to the Word! In that Word (1) The Father reveals his pleasure with Jesus. With that Word (2) The Holy Spirit carries our reliance on Jesus.