[W]e were eyewitnesses of his majesty…we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, 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, knowing this first of all, that no prophesy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. (vv. 16c, 18-20)
In this season “After the Epiphany” we have occupied mountain tops, from Jesus’ “Sermon on The Mount” to the Father’s witness at Jesus’ Transfiguration. As far as witnesses are concerned, we observe a correspondence with Moses ascending Mt. Sinai attended by three additional witnesses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu; and Jesus accompanied by three, Peter, James, and John; to what end?
Today’s Exodus account is extraordinary. At the foot of Mt. Sinai an Altar of Presence was constructed; a bull sacrificed for a peace offering with half its blood splashed on the Altar. Moses read the “Book of The Covenant”, that recorded the mutual promises between God and Israel.
Upon the Israel’s acceptance of the Covenant, Moses sealed their oaths in blood, sprinkling the remaining exsanguination onto the populous, probably on the 70 tribal elders, after which they too were invited up the mountain into heavenly precincts for a celebratory meal before the throne of God where they beheld him face to face.
Note that Sinai’s Covenant in word and blood models the Christian rite of marriage in its mutual exchange of promises to fidelity and the woman’s obedience to her Lord to whom she would look for all her provision.
As for heaven’s post-wedding celebration, we observe an anomaly. The visual of heaven’s majesty was beyond stunning, even its crystalline pavement of sapphire blue. No doubt Moses, the three chief priests, and 70 elders were awe-struck as they engaged in meal conversation.
What is noticeably not recorded is that God engaged the party in conversation. All that was communicated of God’s love for his bride was already delivered to Moses’ ear and published in the blood sealed Covenant Book.
From this time forward God’s majesty and glory with man would be located in his word, “Scripture alone” comprehended through “Christ alone”. This is the significance of the Father’s declaration on Mt. Transfiguration, “Listen to him”; all God’s words of love and fidelity toward mankind are embodied in heaven’s voice (word) and the flesh (Sacrament) of Jesus, “Beloved, Son of God”.
Following the celebration, God’s best-man, Moses was invited into the hidden-cloud of God’s presence to receive on Israel’s behalf, the Decalogue, written not by Moses but in stone by “the finger of God” (Dt. 9:10), which is cypher for the pre-incarnate Christ and in the NT for Jesus (Lk. 16:24; Jn. 8:6).
Thus St. Peter says “no prophesy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation”; rather by the surety of God’s own “prophetic word”.
In Matthew, Jesus with the Sermon on The Mount commenced teaching his disciples the heretofore hidden meaning of God’s word. Christian teaching is not esotericism typical of pagan mystery religions; nevertheless, God’s light in ages past had been veiled on account of sin.
And yet so far there was no meal associated with Jesus’ teaching as a frame for definition of the church’s Bread of Life; that would come later, by Jesus’ miraculous feeding the 5,000 and the 4,000 (Mt. 14:13 ff. and 15:32 ff.) and finally institution of Lord’s Supper before going to the cross.
At the Transfiguration a conversation was in progress between Jesus and the two heavenly men, Moses best man of God at Sinai and Elijah, alter-ego of JB, best man of Jesus proclaiming him God’s sacrificial, paschal Lamb in the NT.
Peter inserted himself into the conversation, thinking he had something to contribute, but was shut down by the Voice out of the enveloping cloud. God is all about his Word that does not tolerate idle, speculative, or ignorant discourse; thus, before Christians speak in the congregation, they are well advised first to attend Jesus’ ongoing Torah word, in which word resides the sum and substance of God’s love of us.
Serially Jesus began to enlighten his church of God’s intentions, “You have heard that it was said to those of old (from the teachers of Judaism) ‘…’, But I say to you…” (Mt. 5:21a, 22a). Jesus makes it clear to his disciples he is the Cypher through whom all God-talk (theology) is understood, in whom the Father hears us even as we listen to Jesus.
Luther renders Jesus as cypher to the Father: “God…has a Word, a Speech, a Thought, or a conversation with Himself in His divine heart, unknown… until the Word became flesh… God… is pregnant with a Word or a conversation… reflecting the thoughts of His heart… God is so absorbed in this Word, Thought, or conversation that he pays no attention to anything else” (Luther Sermons, John 1, AE 22:9-10).
Peter, exposed to Jesus’ teaching, was not yet baptized with the HS, that would await the Resurrection (Jn. 20:22). Peter nevertheless blessed by the power of Jesus’ Beatitudes (Mt. 5:8) for receiving the Father’s revelation gave heavenly witness of Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt.16:16).
However, the next moment, Peter, puffed up, believed himself in a direct communion with the Father (Mt. 16:17) fell from grace by urging on Jesus to abandon the Father’s will in going to the cross (Mt. 16:22, 23).
Many people deny the power of the HS in Baptism through water and word. Like Peter, their comprehension of Jesus is incomplete, failing to see that, “no one comes to the Father except through [Jesus]” into whom we are baptized (Jn. 14:6b).
Nevertheless, Peter became the first “Christian” enthusiast, thinking himself in direct and independent communion with Father for an immediate knowledge of God’s will (so also the Roman Papacy). For his arrogation of authority, Peter earned from Jesus, the ignoble title of, “Satan”.
Jesus is the living Torah of God who alone employs the HS for light, sight, and a new begetting. Apart from Jesus’ “prophetic word” and sacraments through which he promises to be with us always (Mt. 28:20), we are admonished in this NT place of Presence to a deferential silence in the body by, “listen[ing] to [Jesus]” alone.
The church is neither a debate stage nor place for inward individual or mass emotive expression; rather it is a listening place apart from the hurly burly of the world and our own excited natures, where in hearing his word we daily learn to trust in Jesus alone for all things.
Again, Peter teaches, “no prophesy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation”. Peter was accused of teaching “cleverly devised myths” about Jesus’ 2nd Coming; against these he directed his witness to Jesus’ “power and coming” in union with the two other eye-witnesses to the Transfiguration, James and John, and its meaning.
But for us there is an even greater surety in the teaching of the Christian church; “the prophetic word” inspired by the HS; that God’s word sources and draws from Scripture itself, “Scripture interpreting Scripture” and always witnessing to Christ crucified and risen.
When instead men listen to Scripture according to the impulses of individual hearts or personal “light”, then we filter out Christ alone. Early and modern day “enthusiasts” and pharisaical legalists have made themselves incapable of hearing the divine conversation to which God invites us.
But the church in Christ, participates in the water, blood, and Spirit from his riven-side, for a right hearing of his word and so the meaning of, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).
From the cross Jesus handed-over the Spirit, now the Spirit of Christ, that in the Ascension the Father through the Son has delivered the HS to the church for faithful hearing of Jesus alone; claiming place at God’s marriage feast of the Lamb as sons and daughters before his throne; a place graced for an eternal conversation with the living God possessing the mind of Christ and the heart of God; the visual of which angels and archangels stand in awe of forgiven sinners. Amen.