Scripture: 2 Peter 1:16-21
Today more than any other our faith is challenged. It is challenged in the realms of science, as things once believed as being miracles are understood as basic medicines. If you read through history what was once known as Jesuit Powder, was thought to be magic due to its ability to relieve the fevers of the plague. This magical powder was expensive and hard to find in the dark days of historical Europe, but today it is not nearly as magical or miraculous when some of us take it daily for small aches and pains or our low dose aspirin to prevent a potential stroke. Our faith is challenged and it is thought to be some sort of fairy tale told to children to get them to behave. It seem as if our current era of history is faced with the most unique challenges because those before have never had to fight a foe so cunning as the contemporary man.
History would prove us wrong if we were to really look into it. Sure the advancing technology of today provides greater access to knowledge that was once only available to those able to afford higher learning, but in every era of history in every culture the gospel met there have been those that possessed higher learning. The Magi of ancient Persia were not merely stage magicians but were the most educated people of their day, with knowledge of herbal remedies, the movement of the stars, and mathematics. The same could be said of the Gaelic Druids, or the Greek philosophers each group offering a different challenge to those that went to the ends of the earth to present the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
Peter faced these wise men of the world when he went out on his missionary journeys; journeys that tradition says took him to the very streets of Rome where he was crucified upside down for the sake of the Gospel. “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…” When we hear the word myth our minds wonder to the realms of Hercules or the great, lost city of Atlantis, we see them as elaborate and fictitious stories craftily spoken in the epic presentations of Homer. A myth is a story or legend that portrays a lesson or a commonly held belief, by definition the scripture we hold very dear in our faith is mythology. Now relax the muscles of your backs because I know you all just tensed up thinking that I just said that scripture is fiction, but that is not at all what I said. A myth is a story that portrays a lesson or belief. Peter is saying that we did not follow cleverly devised myths; in saying this he is saying that he is telling a story to portray a lesson, but that the story of Jesus is different than other myths.
To those he was speaking to the accounts presented to them by this man seemed just as far fetched as the travels of Achilles, Ajax, and Odysseus, the difference was that Peter saw these things with his own eyes, a feat that Homer could never claim since he was blind. “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made know to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” At best the stories relayed to us by Homer are questionable because he did not see the things of which he wrote about. Although archeologists have been able to locate the city of Troy using his writings the descriptions given of the characters were exaggerated by the imagination of a man that was using words to express images he could not see to people with full sensory capacity. Peter could see though, and that is why he says we did not follow cleverly devised myths, but were eyewitnesses.
Peter saw something that changed him, he saw something that caused him to leave the comfort of his home to give an account of this to people he did not know. What did he see that caused such a radical shift in the life of a simple fisherman? He saw the embodiment of all knowledge shining before him.
Peter wrote this letter to followers of Jesus throughout the known world. We do not know if these believers were Jewish or Gentiles, but we can gather that these believers have an understanding of both cultures. These believes know of the mythology of the Hellenistic world as well as the history of the Hebrew people. He is also speaking to people that have already heard him give an account of the life of Jesus. The event that Peter speaks about today is the day Jesus took him, James, and John up on a mountain to pray. While they were on that holy mountain they saw Jesus standing talking to Moses and Elijah while Jesus was illuminated as if he were the sun.
This one event caused Peter to look at the world from a different perspective. Moses in the Hebrew culture is the lawgiver; Wisdom came to mankind from God through Moses. It is said that when Moses was with God his face shone, and as time passed it would become dimmer. This dimming light caused Moses to wear a veil over his face because it was a distraction to those around him. Because of this account light became a symbol to represent knowledge and wisdom from God. Throughout all of Jewish history even to this very day the first five books of the bible are considered the most important because the very person that spoke to God, whose face the light of God enlightened, wrote these books.
Elijah is also a very important figure in the Hebrew culture. Elijah is considered the greatest Prophet of God, because he was a man that did not taste the sting of death but was carried away in a chariot of fire, or light. According to tradition Elijah will return just prior to the coming of the Messiah or the Christ, bringing with him the new age. The books of the prophets are considered the second most important section of the Hebrew scriptures, because they were written by men who were directed by the Spirit of God to highlight areas of the Law mankind allowed to become dim.
These two figures represent the totality of Jewish wisdom, the Law and the Prophets. On top of that Holy Mountain Peter saw the representatives of the totality of his faith conversing with Jesus. The lawgiver whose face would shine and the prophet who was carried away in a chariot of light were standing before him, speaking to Jesus who was the one filled with light. Before his very eyes he was seeing all wisdom and knowledge being encapsulated into the man Jesus. To him this very event was telling him that the light that shone in the face of Moses the lawgiver was the light of Jesus, and the chariot that carried away the great prophet was Jesus. Jesus is the embodiment of all knowledge and wisdom of God, making the teaching of Jesus greater than and fulfilling the teaching of all that was before.
This is powerful. All the laws point to Jesus, all the oracles of the prophets’ point to Jesus, every myth, story, and person in his history pointed to Jesus. Jesus the man he saw perform miraculous signs, the one that healed his own mother-in-law who was laying on her death bed, could do these things because Jesus is the very essences of God, the light in the darkness. Peter is telling those who will listen that all knowledge and power come not from clever stories devised by man, but from Jesus.
This leads into the second portion of today’s scripture. “So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as a lamp shining in a dark place…” Prophetic messages, like myth, hold an often-misunderstood meaning in our minds. When one thinks of prophetic utterances we immediately think of people who can speak to us about the future, or a holy fortuneteller. This, of course, is part of the office of a prophet, but is not the totality of what they do. A prophet is a speaker of truth, a light bearer to those that would prefer to live in the shadows of a lie. Remember that Peter was saying that Jesus is the source of all knowledge and wisdom of God, that Jesus is the very Word of which all the writings of the Law and Prophets speak. So let us then look deeper at the prophetic message that is more fully confirmed.
The phrase “lamp shining,” is to cause things to become visible, made known, appear, appear to be, and shine. The “dark place” is a place, passage, task, position, possibility, or people without light, gloomy and miserable. So this prophetic message could say, “You will do well to be alert for a passage to become visible through the gloomy, unknown, and miserable situations.” I do not know about you but that to me says that life sucks and Jesus can help us through it. That if we diligently seek Jesus that He will allow the wisdom to shine through and give us a direction to walk.
Peter ends this section by saying that prophecy does not come by our own will but comes by men and women being moved by the Holy Spirit. How then does this light dawn in our lives? In many ways Peter is telling the believers that we must follow Jesus, to take on His lifestyle of worship, prayer, and service. Because it is in prayer and worship that we will begin to see hope through the misery to begin our service.
The spiritual practices of Friends, the meetings for clearness and the times of holy expectancy point to this, the waiting on the Lord in our meetings for business are times where we wait together for the Spirit of God to shine through a situation so that we can move forward through the passageway that was once filled with the gloomy darkness of uncertainty. The problem is that often we do not want to wait; often we feel we have waited too long already and decide by taking the path that seems right in our own minds. Often we assume we already have the knowledge. By doing this we run the risk of following the cleverly devised myths of man. The question also is raised how do we know when the way forward is from God? That comes the study. Through study we gain the knowledge of both man and God, and we discern through scripture and especially through the teachings of Jesus who is the Word of God
This lifestyle is not easy, in fact is one of the most difficult aspects of life. There are challenges all around us that distract us from this way of truth. Just this week as I attempted to center and prepare for worship, my mind dwelled on the conflicts in Ukraine. My heart cries for these people because I lived among them for a short time. Part of me wants our government to do something, to go defend the people, and part of me wants us to stand back and instead promote peace in other ways. This has become challenge to my faith, and a distraction on the pathway God has been leading me down. But in this miserable gloominess God has been teaching me and shining His light through the darkness. I have become more aware of the injustices that I myself have perpetuated, and have been lead to confession and repentance. Just as Peter was an eyewitness to the majesty of Christ, I have been an eyewitness to the hope that God can shine into the darkness. I can bear witness in my own life and in the experiences of the meetings I have participated in that God will provide the way forward if will allow Him to work through us. Though the future may seem grim, though it may seem as if there is no reason to carry on I stand before you saying that we have never had a greater opportunity than we have today to be bearers of truth and light in our world today. The dawn is coming and the bright morning star is rising in our hearts, so let us be ever more diligent to become a people loving God in worship, embracing the Holy Spirit in Prayer, and being obedient to our callings as we live the love of Christ with others.