Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist who wrote a nationally syndicated humor column for about 25 years. Phama and I laughed out loud at a lot of his humor. We learned whenever he wrote, “Seriously, I am not making this up” that was a sure sign he was in fact definitely making it up. Peter is arguing he is definitely not making up what he is saying about Jesus, and the proof of that is found in two things, we were eye witness, and better yet, we have the prophetic Word. Peter’s authority was being challenged, so he grounds it in two reasons.
Have you ever been in one of those awkward situations where someone is repeating themselves and you aren’t quite sure how to act? Do you just act like it’s the first time, do you say “You said that already?” You know, like when I repeated that announcement just now. And you all just though I was losing my mind, right? Peter repeats himself three times in this short passage but he’s not losing his mind either, there is good reason for what he is doing.
In my last three sermons on II Peter I have highlighted Peter’s emphasis on the importance of the knowledge of God. Through the knowledge of God grace and peace are multiplied to us. Through the knowledge of God His power has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness. Through the knowledge of God we supplement our faith so we are not ineffective and unfruitful in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We see how important this knowledge is and what a difference it makes in our lives in the deaths of two famous men in the past month. Contrast Billy Graham to Stephen Hawking. Stephen Hawking was said to be a genius, a brilliant mind, a theoretical physicist working in the realm of cosmology and quantum mechanics. He studied the universe and yet he didn’t know the creator of the universe, being a self-avowed atheist. Is there anything more tragic than to never acknowledged the God who went to such lengths to make Himself known (Romans 1:19-23)? Give thanks to God who has revealed Himself to us in the person and Gospel of Jesus Christ.
With the exception of Hebrews and James, every letter in the NT begins with an opening salutation or blessing. This is not just come old worn out custom or formality, like “Hi, How are ya?” This is not a throwaway line to be rushed past or skipped over on our way to the important stuff. This is not even a kind wish or hope. These blessings are a genuine prayer addresses to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. These are Spirit-inspired blessings upon the Church of Jesus Christ. They are an expression of warm affection and love flowing out of the hearts of the apostles for the recipients of these letters. Peter really wants this for these Christians. So much so, in fact, that he doesn’t just begin this way but he ends his letter with the same desire.
People don’t write letters anymore. They are going the way of the pocket calendar, the checkbook and the flip phone. Some of you may have collections of letters written by relatives, a few of you get letters from Holland yet, maybe some of you still have a stash of love letters somewhere you hope the kids never find. Letters are being replaced by e-mails, texts or tweets. Thank God Jesus came in the first century and not the twenty first century. What a privilege we have of reading Peter’s mail, which of course is also God’s mail. As we study this letter we are reading the very words of God, they have full and complete divine authority. Receive this as God’s truth for you. Take it seriously and take it to heart. Having heard these words we will be accountable for what we do with them. This is God’s revelation, God’s truth. You can say you don’t understand it, but you cannot say you don’t believe it or you disagree with it. That you do at the peril of your soul. This was written late in Peter’s life around 67 AD when he was in prison in Rome, just before he was martyred for his faith in Jesus. It has some marks of being a last will and testament. What a debt we owe to apostles who poured out their faith and teaching and their own blood from prisons in Rome. Both Peter and Paul were martyred for their faith under the persecution of Emperor Nero. Peter wrote this out of a pastor’s heart, out of a genuine love for these Christian brothers and sisters. He wrote it to comfort and encourage and to strengthen their faith in difficult and challenging times. Our world is different from theirs in terms of material possessions, advances in inventions, what we are able to do because of changes in transportation, medicine and technology. But from a spiritual point of view, from the perspective of our hearts and souls there is no difference, no change. The superficial aspects of life have changed dramatically but we have the same fears and doubts and problems and struggles with unbelief. Where is God, what is He doing, why doesn’t He answer my prayers, why do things seem to be getting worse, why are there problems in the church? Unbelief can sneak up on us when we are tired or frustrated, when we are grieving or in pain, when things seem to be falling apart. This letter is almost 2000 years old and yet every word of it is just as true and relevant today as it was when it was read in those churches in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. If we will open our hearts to it and ask God to speak to us through it, He will and we will receive food for our souls. If we will saturate our hearts and minds with the power and truth of God’s Word it will change our lives and fill us with grace and peace. This is God’s Word for us today.
Have you ever heard God’s voice? Peter, James and John heard it. What must it have been like up there on that Mount of Transfiguration to hear the booming voice of God? What did it sound like? Deep baritone or bass? Did it have an accent? Did it sound like Charlton Heston or Morgan Freeman or Liam Neeson? Was it terrifying, did it bring them to their knees? Have you ever heard God’s voice? I have, just this morning in fact, here in our text, the very words of God brought by the Holy Spirit from heaven to the apostle Peter and written down and given to us. God wrote a book.