Truth Established by the Testimony of Two or Three Witnesses
Transfiguration | January 24, 2021 | Rev. James Preus | Matthew 17:1-9 | 2 Peter 1:16-21
St. Peter testifies saying, “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.” (2 Peter 1:16). St. John, who also was with Peter on that holy mountain, likewise testifies, “And we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14b) And these testimonies are important, because the Law of God makes clear that everything must be established on the basis of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1). And on that holy mountain of transfiguration, we have ample witnesses to establish that the Holy Scriptures are trustworthy and true and that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God and Savior of the world.
On the mountain of transfiguration, we see the meeting of the Old and New Testaments. The prophets Moses and Elijah represent the Old Testament. They were two of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. Moses received the Law from God on Mount Sinai, and himself wrote the first five books of the Bible. Elijah, while not writing any of the books of the Bible himself, represents the prophets of the Old Testament who did, as he preached the Word of the LORD against the false prophets of Baal and Asherah, and famously challenged the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, which resulted in the people praising the LORD and killing the false prophets of Baal after God answered Elijah’s prayer and sent fire down from heaven to consume his offering.
Moses and Elijah are two witnesses who testify of Christ. And Christ, by revealing his glory to them, testifies that what they preached is true. All the writings of the Old Testament are trustworthy and sure. Moses, Elijah, and the rest of the prophets of the Old Testament prophesied of Christ, yet, they did not get to see him. Rather, they were guided by the Holy Spirit to write of things they longed to see. But at Jesus’ transfiguration, Moses and Elijah see what they preached and wrote, God’s only begotten Son in human flesh.
For the Apostles Peter, James, and John, it is the opposite. They have not yet written down anything, but they have seen the Lord Jesus. In fact, even before this transfiguration, St. Peter confessed Jesus to be the Christ the Son of God. And after they witnessed Jesus proved to be the Christ, they then went to write of what they had witnessed. So, here on this mountain, we have two witnesses from the Old Testament and three witnesses from the New Testament, seeing with their eyes and hearing with their ears that Jesus Christ is the Son of God! You can see then why St. Paul declares in Ephesians chapter 2 that the house of God is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the corner stone (vs. 19-20).
Yet, there is more testimony to the trustworthiness of Scripture and to the divinity of Christ than two human witnesses from the Old Testament and three human witnesses from the New Testament. There is yet another witness, that makes these truths even more sure. The witness of the Holy Trinity. In John chapter 8, Jesus says to the Jews, “In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” (vs. 17-18) At Jesus’ transfiguration we see the testimony of God the Father himself, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” We have the testimony of Jesus, the Son. And as we did in Jesus’ Baptism when the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove, we have the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the bright cloud. Even apart from the two human witnesses of the Old Testament and the three human witnesses of the New Testament, Jesus’ transfiguration fulfills the Law’s requirement of two or three witnesses by giving us the witness of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
And this again supports the trustworthiness of Scripture. The Bible has over forty human authors spanning around fifteen centuries, yet the Bible has only one Author, the eternal God, the Holy Spirit. St. Peter declares, “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke rom God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21) And so, the Bible is a book like no other book. It has many authors, yet it has one author. It has the testimony of many witnesses, and all these witnesses testify of the truth. It is a human book written in human history, yet it is a heavenly book whose origin is in God himself, so that the Son of God himself is declared to be the Word (John 1:1-3). This means that we must consider the words of Holy Scripture to be nothing else than God’s holy Word.
When God the Father declared Jesus to be his beloved Son from heaven, he then made a command: “Hear him.” “Listen to him.” This is an important command. St. Peter tells Jesus that he has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). St. Paul tells us that saving faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Yet, how can we hear Jesus’ words? From holy Scripture. The Prophets of the Old Testament speak Jesus’ word. The Apostles of the New Testament speak Jesus’ Word. The entire Bible is the Word of Christ. This is why our faith is grounded on Bible as the only rule and norm of our teaching.
So, what is the Holy Bible about; this most unique and profitable book, which claims prophets, apostles, and God himself as its author? It is about Jesus. This is the meaning of the prophets from the Old Testament and the apostles from the New Testament standing before Jesus in his shining glory as the Holy Spirit covers them and God the Father from the cloud declares Jesus to be his Son. The Bible tells us about Jesus and through Jesus we have access to our heavenly Father. This is why Jesus says in John chapter 5, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” (vs. 39).
The entire Bible is about Jesus. The purpose for reading the Bible is to learn who Jesus is and what he has done to save you. This is why the Apostle John writes toward the end of his Gospel, “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)
Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. He is the only way to eternal life. St. Peter declares in Acts chapter 4, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (vs. 12) And for this reason, the Holy Bible is the most precious book on earth. In fact, the Word of God is our dearest treasure. The Bible would be the greatest treasure on earth simply for being God’s Word! Yet, not only is it God’s Word, but it declares to the Gospel, which gives eternal life to all who believe.
Shortly after God the Father commanded Peter, James, and John to listen to Jesus, Jesus spoke. What did he say? He told his Apostles not to tell anyone about the vision until after he was raised from the dead. It seems strange that Jesus would tell his Apostles, whom he brought up to that mountain for the purpose of them witnessing his glory, to then tell them not to tell anyone about it! Yet, Jesus does not tell them to remain silent forever, and it is very important why he wants them to wait. Jesus wants the disciples to witness his betrayal, condemnation, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection first. Why? Because you cannot receive Jesus’ glory without Jesus’ cross.
On the mountain Jesus revealed who he is. He is the Son of Man and he is the Son of God. He shines with the un-reflected light of the Divine. He is true God and true man. Yet, this glory does us sinner no good, unless our sins are taken away. What Jesus wants his disciples to preach is not only his transfiguration, when his divine glory was revealed, but also his crucifixion, when his divine glory was hidden. On the cross, laden with the sins of the world and covered in blood, Jesus was still just as much God’s Son as he was on the Mountain of Transfiguration. And this is exactly what they did. St. Peter told the Jews, “you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:15)
Jesus’ glory does us no good while we are sinners. So, Jesus bears our sin and takes them away. Now, Jesus’ glory does us infinite good, because we know who died for us, God’s own Son! This means that our sins are gone. If Jesus, in whom God the Father is well please, bore all your sins on the cross, and God was still so pleased with him to raise him from the dead, then that means that your sins our obliterated. They do not stand a chance against Jesus’ crucifixion. This means that God is immensely and infinitely pleased with you on account of Christ. That is the meaning of Jesus’ transfiguration, crucifixion, and resurrection, which Holy Scripture reveals to you.
A lot of voices have gone out over the world. It seems that we are constantly bombarded with new and conflicting information. What you were taught in school as true when you were a child may very well be considered false or even dangerous today. There are multiple sources of information from television to the internet to books, yet, they do not agree. They are not multiple witnesses, confirming the truth, but rather multiple voices arguing over your mind. And although none of these voices are God’s voice, it has become increasingly obvious that these voices are not simply trying to tell you what is going on in the world, but what you should believe is going on. A war of words is waging over our minds and hearts as well as over the minds and hearts of our children. And it is important to recognize that most of these voices, lie, they do not teach the truth of God’s Word, and they do not reveal your Savior.
Christians are called to be judges, to judge the spirits to see whether they are from God or not (John 7:24; 1 John 4:1). Yet, how are we to judge? How are we to test the voices whether they are true or not? By whether they conflict with God’s Word or agree. In order to do this, you must listen to God’s Word and hear sound preaching grounded on the Scriptures.
The chaotic voices of this world cause us stress and confusion. They divide us and cause people to hate one another. They lead us into sin and doubt. But God’s Word reveals our Savior Jesus. Holy Scripture is in full agreement that Jesus is the Son of God, who has won salvation for us, who is and ever will be pleasing to our Father in heaven. There has been much talk in recent weeks about censorship and freedom of speech and misinformation. And Christians are concerned that they will be silenced and lied to. But we already the true source of the most important information. We have God’s holy Word, the words of eternal life. As long as we have God’s Word, we will be able to protect our minds and hearts and battle misinformation, and much more, we will have Jesus and his Salvation. Amen.