2 Peter 1:16-21
16 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. 17 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,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 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.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Peter, James, and John saw Jesus do many amazing things. Just think back on the sermons from the last few weeks. They were there when Jesus (according to John), “manifested His glory” by turning water into wine (Jn. 2:11). They saw Jesus touch a leper, and, instead of the disease spreading from the man and infecting Jesus, the cleanness of Jesus spreads to the man and his leprosy was gone (Mt. 8:1-4). They heard Jesus speak a word to heal a centurion’s paralyzed servant (Mt. 8:5-13). They were in a boat that was being swamped by the winds and the waves, and Jesus tells that storm to knock it off resulting in a great calm (Mt. 8:23-27). Peter, James, and John would see Jesus feed the masses, give sight to the blind, and raise the dead.
But, when Peter looks back on everything that Jesus did, and when Peter wants to let people know the truth of the Christian faith, Peter points the people to whom he wrote this letter to the Transfiguration. There on the holy mountain, Peter says he saw the power, the coming, and the majesty of Jesus with his own eyes. The Transfiguration is the greatest manifestation of the deity of Jesus. It is where Jesus’ divine nature, which He always had, shines through His human nature showing that He is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.
The truth that God Himself came down to die and rise again to save all mankind from sin is not some cleverly devised myth. It is rooted in historical fact. Peter was there. He saw with his own eyes. Peter’s own ears heard God the Father preach a very important but very brief sermon, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him” (Mt. 17:5).
So, we could summarize v. 16-18 here as Peter saying, “Listen up. Our preaching of God coming down to rescue us from sin and death is not some myth or fairy tale. We preach Jesus as the Savior of the world because we saw His glory and power and majesty. We preach Jesus because we heard the very voice of God from heaven when we were with Jesus on the holy mountain of Transfiguration.”
And the rest of this text, which is where we are going to focus most of our attention, is the meaning, the take-away, of why the Transfiguration is still important for us today. And the reason might surprise you.
Normally, we think of the Transfiguration as mainly showing us the glory of who Jesus is. The Transfiguration certainly does do that. But listen to Peter’s conclusion: Verse 19, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention to as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
The Transfiguration of Jesus does show the glory of Jesus, but even more so, according to this text, the Transfiguration shows us the glory of the Bible. Peter says here that it is better for you to have the Scriptures than for you to have been there with Jesus, Peter, James, John, Moses, and Elijah. It is better for you because the Scriptures, every last verse, show you of God’s great love for you. The shining face and dazzling clothes of Jesus point us to the shining and dazzling lamp of the Scriptures that shine in a dark place.
So where is this dark place? We might think that the lamp of the Scriptures shines in the darkness of this world. The Bible certainly does talk about the world being full of darkness and sin. In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, John writes that in Jesus was life, and “the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn. 1:4-5). That passage of Scripture says that the light of Jesus defeats the darkness of this world. Or consider Psalm 119:105, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” There, the Scriptures give a picture of the light of God’s Word giving us direction in this dark world so that we don’t stumble or go the wrong way.
But Peter seems to be saying something different here. He says to pay careful attention to the Scriptures as “a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises” – now catch this – “the morning star rises in your hearts.”
You see, it’s not just the world and things outside of you that are a dark place. Your heart also has a darkness that needs the light of God’s Word. Peter doesn’t use the normal word for ‘dark’ here. In fact, the word that gets translated here as ‘dark’ is the only time in all the Scriptures where this word gets used. When I looked Greek the word up, the first definition is ‘squalid’ which is a word I don’t think I’ve ever used in normal conversation. So, I looked up ‘squalid’ and it means this, ‘foul and repulsive from a lack of care; neglected and filthy.’
Here is the picture: Sinner, your heart and my heart is a filthy, murky, dark place. Peter says that we do well to pay attention to the Word of God shining in the filthy, dirty, neglected, dark place of our hearts.
Many celebrities and influential people have been saying for a long time, “Follow your heart.” It sounds nice. It sounds good. But it is totally unscriptural. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” Or maybe you have seen the little cartoon, it floats around social media from time to time. The picture is of a small child standing before Jesus and offering Jesus a red heart that looks like a nice valentine saying, “It’s all I have.” And Jesus is reaching out to take it replying, “It’s all I ever wanted.” That isn’t the picture that the Scriptures give us. It would be better if that heart were the color of dung. And Jesus says, “I’ll take that filthy, desperately sick thing from you and give you a new heart” (Ez. 36:26).
But back to Peter’s picture of the Scriptures shining like a lamp in the squalid (there, now I’ve used it), dank, neglected, filthy darkness of our hearts. We need the clear lamp of the Bible to shine through the dark places of our heart.
We walk around in a dark, dirty, and ugly house. We have all sorts of temptations within ourselves to sin. Whether it is more money, a better relationship, an image of something pleasant to look at, a bigger house, or accolades from others, we are tempted to think that those things will bring us happiness. And we are willing to do whatever it takes, whatever sin is necessary, to grab on to those things. But, when we pay attention, the lamp of the Scriptures shines in the darkness of our heart, we see – we clearly see – that those things are filthy. We see that those things are not worth comparing to the greatness of the treasures of God’s promises.
So, pay attention here because I’m going to read a long passage of the Scriptures to shine some of their light in your heart. It comes just a few verses before our text today. 2 Peter 1:3–11 (turn there if it will help you follow along) “[Christ’s] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
This is what the Scriptures do for you, believer. They shine in your heart to give you faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.
Dear saints, don’t be blinded by neglecting your Bible. You have been cleansed from your former sins. Grow and abound in the godly qualities that are yours through your God and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.