As followers of Christ, do we see glory in following Jesus in our daily lives? Can we see Jesus’ glory today?
2 Peter 1.17 says, “Jesus received glory from God the Father” and points to the words from the Transfiguration, referring to God in the cloud as “Majestic Glory.” Since we participate in God, we can see the divine presence of God in one another. I can see Jesus’ glory when I see God at work in you. 2 Peter tees all of this up for us.
Still, something strange is happening in 2 Peter. It’s that strangeness, though, that gives 2 Peter a unique voice to speak to us today.
2 Peter was probably the last book of the New Testament to be written. It could have been written as late as 200 CE, although it may have been as early as around 100 CE. The author is almost definitely different than 1 Peter. One clue comes from the vocabulary. About 60% of the Greek words in 2 Peter aren’t in 1 Peter.[i] So the authors had different speech patterns.
Also, 2 Peter borrows all or part of 19 verses from Jude, a book that only has 25 verses itself.[ii]
Word for Today
Despite the problems or challenges, 2 Peter has something to say to us today.
We don’t live our Christian lives on our own. The Holy Spirit is at work in us, moving and directing. As it does, we reflect Jesus in our lives. It’s not like the force from Star Wars or some sort of mind control device. We are not automatons. We are participants in the process. When we open our Bibles, we don’t just make up the meaning. We read what is on the page and try to make sense of it. This includes tricky or unusual books like 2 Peter.
God still speaks. We don’t cause it. We don’t will God to start speaking and then suddenly hear a voice in a cloud like Peter, James, and John on the Mountain of Transfiguration. When the Holy Spirit moves in a person, then we hear God speak. Since others claim to speak for God, we need something to help us understand.
In an era of “fake news”[iii] and weird conspiracy theories like QAnon,[iv] 2 Peter’s refutation of false teachers speaks to our world. Our reading begins, “We didn’t follow clever myths…, but we saw Jesus’ majesty.” It’s a classic repudiation, not this but that.
The issue in 2 Peter is the Parousia, or second-coming. I know that everyone might not get excited by Greek cognates, like Parousia, nevertheless we face clever myths all the time. People question scientists, or public health experts, or share conspiracy theories.
By the time someone was writing 2 Peter, people asked why Jesus hadn’t come back yet. “Clever myths” implies that someone made up the doctrine of the Parousia and used deceit to convince everyone that it was true. That’s why they reference “clever myths.”[v]
The glory in our reading supports its case by pointing to the apostles as eyewitness of the transfiguration. The transfiguration is in Matthew (17.1-8), Mark (9.2-8), and Luke (9.28-36). It’s about Jesus climbing a mountain with Peter, James, and John. On the mountaintop, they see Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus, and God affirms Jesus from a cloud. That’s the “Majestic Glory” in our reading.
The point of the reference is to say that the Parousia isn’t false.
Why not point to the resurrection though? It seems a little surprising to jump the resurrection and go back to the transfiguration. It could sound like 2 Peter is saying the transfiguration is more important. Karl Barth explains:
The obvious post-Easter parallel to the transfiguration is the conversion of Saul. And its purpose in the pre-Easter period is obviously to demonstrate that even in this time, although in concealment, He was actually and properly the One He was revealed to be in His resurrection.[vi]Karl Barth
Barth connects the 2 Peter reference to the transfiguration with Easter, Paul’s conversion, and, I would add, to us. All of it points to Jesus as the Son of God.
Epistles are hard. We get into theology when we study them. That’s one of the reasons Erin has been pulling from the heroes of Genesis for the children’s sermons this summer. In Genesis, the story carries the weight of the meaning. In Epistles, we read the meaning, it’s in different context, and we have to make the intellectual leap to apply it to our lives.
Also, Epistles use language pointing to a meaning that would have been obvious to many readers 1,800 years ago. That meaning doesn’t, at first, jump off the page. When it says, “Be attentive to this … until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,” it’s making two veiled references. “Day dawns” points to end of time or eschatological age (cf. 3.18 and Romans 13.12). “Morning star rises in your hearts” references several ideas. Notably Numbers 24.17, “a star shall come out of Jacob,” which is a Messianic promise.
The way all of this speaks to us today sneaks in before our reading began. In 2 Peter 1.4, we read, “Through [Christ]… we may become participants in the divine nature.” Although this notion veers close to its Hellenistic context, this Epistle is saying that we join God at work in the world. Leonardo Boff wrote an entire chapter in his book Liberating Grace about the idea of Christians as sharers in Jesus’ divine nature. He writes, “Everything shares in God, hence everything is a sacrament and an embodiment of revealing divinity.”[vii]
We don’t have to look for Jesus’ glory. We see it all around us. We just need to open our eyes. In our reading, the first-person plural pronoun “we” appears six times. “We didn’t follow… we had been eyewitnesses… we heard his voice… we were with him on the mountain… we have a prophetic message.” Since the epistle likely came so much later than the apostle Peter’s life, the authors were sharing a lived history. And, we can be part of it.
Seeing Jesus’ glory means participating in it. Living for Christ means showing his glory each day. I can see it in you when you take a stand for something that really matters. When you stand up for justice, reflect the love of Christ, teach others about God, extend mercy, live righteously, show integrity, practice patience and kindness, Jesus’ glory is all around us. Live for Christ. Embody the divine reality. And, when you do, I see Jesus’ glory in you.
[i] Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, ed. David N. Freedman, The Anchor Bible Reference Library, (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 767.
[ii] Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, 764.
[v] Duane F. Watson, “2 Peter,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, ed. Leander Keck (Nashville, TN: Abington, 1998), 342.
[vi] Karl Barth, The Doctrine of Creation §47, ed. G. W. Bromiley and Thomas F. Torrance, trans. G. W. Bromiley, vol. III.2, Church Dogmatics, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2009), 479.
[vii] Leonardo Boff, Liberating Grace, trans. John Drury (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1984), 177.