Have you ever been startled when something you’re reading ends up in an unexpected place? Perhaps even saying, “I didn’t see that coming.” In some genres, the twist is expected and we’re disappointed when it doesn’t happen, is too predictable, or is simply lame. There are other kinds of writing where a twist is unexpected, startling, and causes us to puzzle its meaning. The next step in our walk through 2nd Peter contains an unexpected twist.
Peter begins, “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16, NASB95) What cleverly devised tales did Peter have in mind? He doesn’t specify or even hint. They could have been the myth stories of the Greek and Roman gods and demi-gods. Or perhaps the false-narrative of the Gnostics that were troubling the church. Even today there are many “cleverly devised tales” that folks follow. But Peter is strongly saying – wait a minute, we didn’t make this stuff up, we saw it with our own eyes!
Now, if you’re familiar with the Gospel accounts of Jesus you know that the most powerful event Peter witnessed were the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus and His ascension. I don’t know about you but that is where I expected Peter to go next. We didn’t follow cleverly devised tales but were witnesses to Christ’s resurrection. But Peter doesn’t go there but to an earlier event. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”- and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:17-18, NASB95) Why the twist Peter? Why highlight the transfiguration and not the resurrection?
Some have pointed at this twist and argued against the resurrection. But if we look ahead, if we discern where Peter is leading his readers, we’ll see that the twist is intended to lay the groundwork for his warning against false prophecy and false teaching. More on that in future steps on our walk through Peter’s letter.
Let’s take a step back and recall what Peter is alluding to. The event is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Matthew records that six days after Jesus asks His all-important question – who do you say I am? – He leads Peter, James, and John up a high mountain. At that place Jesus appearance changed, transfigured. His face shone like the sun and his garments as white as light. It must have been stunningly brilliant. Jesus was then joined by two other figures identified as Moses and Elijah. What they discussed is not disclosed.
Peter did what we often do and tried to contain the moment. “Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Matthew 17:4, NASB95) There is no direct answer offered to Peter but I hear an echo of Jesus’ words to Martha in my mind. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part (sitting at Jesus’ feet soaking in His teaching), which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42, NASB95) While Peter is making his offer – “a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5, NASB95) Matthew records that the disciples were terrified, undone if you will like Isaiah’s record of when he saw the Lord (Isaiah 6). It was a very powerful moment.
God speaks in hundreds of ways. Understanding that is Peter’s purpose for these verses. His proof is the most definable moment of God speaking that he personally witnessed. An audible voice. So, what does that mean for us?
Very few will witness an audible voice that is heard by many. That is perhaps the medium God reserves for something very special. For those that have ears to hear God speaks in the pages of the Bible, He nudges our heart, stirs compassion, grants visions, gives dreams, plants desires, and sometimes even whispers in our ears. Again, if we have ears to hear.
Jesus said, “But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”(John 10:2-5, NLT)
God Speaks to you
This article is going to end with the simple truth that God speaks. As we continue our walk through 2nd Peter we’ll encounter answers on how we hear, how do we know it’s God, what do we do with it, and what do we do with others that claim to hear God.
God is speaking to you. Do you have ears to hear? Have you heard the shepherd call your name? How does God generally speak to you? Some struggle with this. Not the theological possibility but their experience of never hearing. There is no magic formula, no specific email address or steps to take to hear God. No special place or environment. Honestly, it just takes a prayer and an open heart. “Open my heart to hear You and my eyes to see You.” Some will feel a word, some may recall a scripture verse or even just a reference, some may see an image flash by, some may hear God’s word in the voices of others in ways the speaker never intended, some may “hear” God in a sunset, in the ocean waves, or a mountain vista. Some will hear God in the voice of the mind. To those that have ears to hear God speaks.