2 Peter 1:16-21
Is St. Peter a liar? Can we trust him? The Apostle writes, "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he 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 was there upon the mountain. He saw with his eyes the majesty of Jesus' transfiguration. He heard with his own ears the voice of the Father. ...Unless Peter is lying. The first readers of Peter's letter were much like us. They never met Jesus in person. They didn't see him do miracles or die on the cross or rise from the dead or ascend into heaven. And it is quite possible that (for many of them) the people who first shared the Gospel of Jesus with them hadn't either. So Peter here says to them, "We do not follow myths. I'm an eyewitness. I was there. I heard God speak with my own ears! If you're going to doubt that Jesus is Lord you can't blame the naiveté of your pastor, you have to call me a liar."
And this is what Jesus' transfiguration proves. Jesus is Lord. St. Matthew records that Jesus' skin shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. His divinity shone through his humanity. And there stood Moses and Elijah. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. Elijah was among the greatest prophets of the Old Testament and encapsulates what a good preacher should be. He speaks God's Word.
Moses and Elijah stand with Jesus to testify that Jesus fulfills the words written and spoken by them. Jesus fulfills the writings of Moses. He is the Passover Lamb, which causes death to pass over us. Jesus is the bronze snake lifted up on a pole, which healed all who looked at it. Jesus is foretold in every bull and goat sacrificed by the command of Moses. God spoke through Moses, "I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers, and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him." (Deuteronomy 18:18) And Moses stands next to Jesus as a testimony that Christ fulfills this ancient prophecy.
Jesus fulfills not only what Elijah proclaimed, but what every prophet preached of Jesus. Elijah stands before Christ to confess him to be the fulfillment of all prophecy. He is the virgin born Immanuel and suffering servant of Isaiah. He is the pierced one prophesied by Zechariah. All writings of the Old Testament point to Christ Jesus. And Jesus, aglow with divine glory testifies to the truth of the Old Testament. All of it is true, because it testifies of Jesus and Jesus is true.
And if this is not a sure enough testimony a bright cloud overshadows them and God the Father Himself speaks, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him."
This command from God is directed not only to Peter, James, and John, the three disciples who followed Jesus up the mountain. God commands you and me to listen to Jesus. Well, how are we supposed to do that? Jesus is in heaven. We listen to Jesus by listening to his Word from the holy Scriptures. St. Peter writes that the transfiguration of Jesus makes the prophetic word more sure. When we listen to Scripture, we listen to Jesus.
The holy Scriptures, the Bible is the Word of God. It has no errors. The Bible was written by men. Yet these men did not write their own opinions. St. Peter writes, "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." St. Peter teaches us that the Bible is not any other book. It is God's book. The Holy Spirit caused it to be written, so we can know our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
During the nineteenth century biblical scholarship was hijacked by a discipline known as "higher criticism." The goal of higher criticism was to treat the Bible as any other book, meaning they would critique its writings and its authors as they would any book in history. However, the Bible became more scrutinized than any book in the history of the world. Everything about it was questioned from its authors to when and where the books were written. Biblical critics claimed nearly all the books of the New Testament were written generations after the Apostles died, making them far from eyewitness accounts. Of course all miracles and supernatural happenings in Scripture were dismissed as myths.
Rudolf Bultmann is known as one of the greatest Lutheran theologians of the twentieth century. He taught future Lutheran pastors theology at the University of Marburg, Germany. And although I'm sure most of you have never heard of him, you've probably heard his teaching. Bultmann was one of the most influential teachers in the so-called Protestant Church. Now don't get misled by the words "greatest Lutheran theologian" or "influential teacher." Bultmann was about the most destructive false teacher in modern Christianity. He took upon himself to "demythologize" the New Testament. He believed that modern people could not accept the "mythology" of the New Testament, so he had to separate the myths from history. Bultmann wrote in his essay, "New Testament & Mythology, "Can Christian proclamation today expect men and women to acknowledge the mythical world picture as true? To do so would be both pointless and impossible."1 Bultmann thought that the New Testament displayed a mythical world picture, "which is simply the world picture of a time now past that was not yet formed by scientific thinking."2 Therefore Bultmann exclaimed, "We cannot use electric lights and radios and, in the event of illness, avail ourselves of modern medical and clinical means and at the same time believe in the spirit and wonder world of the New Testament."3
Bultmann's attempts to separate myths from the actual history of the New Testament leaves us with giant holes in the Bible. It is then up to the interpreter of the Bible to determine what to believe. So miracles like turning water into wine and feeding thousands with just a few loaves and a couple fish, raising a young girl from the dead, and healing the sick, these all get pushed into the category of myth. Yet such criticisms of Scripture doesn't end at doubting a few miracles. The so called "greatest Lutheran theologian" of the 20th century denied the historical resurrection of Christ itself. Bultmann writes, "But what about the resurrection of Christ? Is it not an utterly mythical event? In any case, it is not a historical event that is to be understood in its significance." And yet, St. Paul writes by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:17)
Now Bultmann and such teachers like him caused great damage to the Lutheran Church in Germany as congregations continued to receive new young pastors, who actually didn't believe the Bible to be the Word of God. But the Atlantic Ocean didn't protect our continent from such false teaching. John Reumann, who was one of the great teachers of the largest Lutheran church body in America wrote in his book on the Lord's Supper, "Perhaps the most profound impact from biblical studies is the realization that we cannot today with surety ascertain what Jesus did, said, or intended, historically..." He further writes concerning the institution of the Lord's Supper on the night Jesus was betrayed, "scholars are more and more certain that we do not know exactly what Jesus said that night."4 According to Reumann we cannot be certain of what Jesus said or did, but we certainly can be uncertain.
Such uncertainty toward the Bible and what Jesus said and intended leaves it up to people to interpret what God wants us to believe and do. This usually leads to people dismissing anything in the Bible that makes them uncomfortable. This doesn't stop at miracles or a man being swallowed by a fish or God creating the universe with his word. It is no coincidence that so many in modern Christianity "discovered" that God actually doesn't have a problem with women pastors, homosexuality, divorce, and abortion after they "realized" that the Bible isn't actually God's word. Of course they replace the sure Word of God for their own flimsy opinions that will change with the tides.
Now we shouldn't be surprised that even men, who claim to be teachers of God will promote false teaching. St. Peter warns us, "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies..." (2 Peter 2:1) Our Lord Jesus counsels us, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:15). So Jesus teaches us to mark and avoid false teachers. When you hear them run away. And how will you tell if they are false teachers? By their fruits; when they teach contrary to God's holy Word as revealed in the Bible.
We confess that the Scriptures are the Word of God. They tell us what God wants us to believe about Jesus. But the confession that the Bible has no errors isn't an end to itself. The fact that the Bible has no errors is a source of great comfort. The Bible is trustworthy. You can count on it. That the Bible is trustworthy means that you can have certainty of your salvation. St. Paul writes, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
The teaching that the Bible has no errors is very important for you personally. How do you know what God wants from you? How do you know if God loves you? If he forgives you for the wrong you've done. Scripture reveals that the same God who calls sin, "sin," and condemns all forms of sexual immorality, murder, hatred, and slander also reveals that that same God became man and died for all these sins. Jesus said, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me," (John 5:39). St. Paul writes, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." (1 Timothy 1:15)
St. Peter states that the prophetic word is, "a lamp shining in a dark place" and so he agrees with the Psalmist, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 119:105) Peter is confident that the Scriptures light the path to salvation, not only because he saw Christ transfigured before Moses and Elijah and confessed by God the Father, but he also saw Christ risen from the dead and ascend into heaven.
Peter did not lie. He told the truth. The Scriptures are trustworthy. In them you know that God loves you. He sent Jesus to die for your sins. Jesus' resurrection proves that you are forgiven. The Bible assures you that you can trust that God washes away your sins in your Baptism. You can believe that what you receive from the altar is Christ's true body and blood, crucified and risen for your salvation, because we do in fact know what Jesus said on the night when he was betrayed. Our faith is not about doubt, but about certainty. The Scripture gives us that certainty. Those who doubt that the Bible is God's word doubt what God thinks of them. You have no need to doubt. God loves you. He forgives your worst sins. Jesus is risen and so will you be to life everlasting.
The hymnist writes:
I know my faith is founded On Jesus Christ, my God and Lord;
And this my faith confessing, Unmoved I stand on His sure Word.
Our reason cannot fathom The truth of God profound;
Who trusts in human wisdom Relies on shifting ground.
God's Word is all sufficient, It makes divinely sure;
And trusting in its wisdom, My faith shall rest secure.5
That is our final hymn this morning. Let us all belt it out to let both God and Satan know where our faith is grounded. Amen.