A Lamp in a Dark Place
Transfiguration Sunday – A LSB #699
Text – 2 Peter 1:19
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 & the morning star rises in your hearts.
A LAMP IN A DARK PLACE
We confessed it in the Nicene Creed: “And He will come again with glory to judge both the living & the dead.” At the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, Peter, James & John are given a preview of that glory. The popular culture of today would have us believe that the words of the Nicene Creed are just a cleverly devised myth. The same was true when Peter wrote his letter.
The human heart, as it has been corrupted by the fall into sin, wants nothing to do with being held accountable to God. The whole idea of standing for judgment is anathema to our rebellious nature. We see it & we feel it in our heart whenever someone dares to allow our sinful thoughts, words & deeds to be seen for what they are. We prefer sweeping our sin under the rug.
On nine different occasions, in the 4 Gospels of the NT, Jesus tells His disciples not to be afraid. Even if you don’t look up the verses you should be able to figure out what is the cause of the disciples’ fear in every one of those circumstances. If you need a clue, think about Adam’s response when the Lord came looking for him after he’d eaten from the forbidden tree.
Sin is the cause of the disciples’ fear in each case. Sin is the cause of all the fears we feel, whether a fear of heights, a fear of not measuring up, or a fear of having our sins revealed. Peter doesn’t mention it in his letter, but the Gospels of Matthew & Mark both say that Peter, James & John were terrified by the sight of Jesus during His transfiguration.
That is the irony of the effect of sin. Jesus was transfigured before them as an antidote to the influence of sin. Yet they are still afraid. Jesus shows them His glory to reveal a glimpse of the majesty of heaven, yet the sinful Peter, James & John are terrified by it. As a result, when they come down from the mountain, Jesus commands them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9 ESV) Even to the close followers of Jesus, the glory He revealed wouldn’t make sense as long as they did not understand the mission & the purpose of Jesus as Messiah. First the cross, then the glory – for Jesus & for His followers.
And that is why St. Peter can describe the prophetic word as a lamp shining in a dark place. The world we live in, the world that exists under the cross, even for Christians is a very dark place desperately in need of light. The Greek word Peter uses “αὐχμηρῷ” is a word that, in addition to dark, can also mean dry, rough, filthy, dismal, squalid & miserable.
In the brokenness of their world, Peter, James & John were so baffled by the light of Jesus’ glorious transfiguration that they were terrified. Yet, God meant that experience to be useful to them much later in their coming ministry. As we heard in the Gospel reading, “Jesus commanded them, ‘Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.’”
Our heavenly Father grants us blessings too. Sometimes we recognize them immediately. Other times we have no clue what to do with them for now. Our culture also is rough, filthy, dismal, squalid & miserable. It’s becoming more uncivilized by the day. Protests that set things on fire & destroy property have become acceptable to many people.
Our constitution’s guarantee of the freedom to speak has been morphed into the freedom to hate, to steal & to destroy. You might remember that Jesus describes the purposes of the devil in a very similar way. Lucifer’s plan is to attack hatred with hatred. So the people in our country who see President Trump as a fascist are hoping to destroy his hatred with more hatred.
That totally flies in the face of what Jesus taught in the Gospel reading last Sunday: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor & hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies & pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil & on the good, & sends rain on the just & on the unjust.’” (Matthew 5:43-45 ESV) Stirring up hatred to fight hatred breeds only more hatred. No one can dispel the darkness with more darkness. Loving our enemies, instead of hating them, is the only life-giving solution. Jesus gave up His life so that sinners could live.
Hatred only tears down. Love always builds up. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” That Son then taught: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
If you see, you realize that light & love dispel the darkness. If you are still engulfed by the darkness it is impossible to see. More darkness, more hatred, never brings light, or sight. Every human being needs a lamp to bring light & life & love into the darkness of their heart. To do that, in the Epistle lesson from St. Peter, he shares with us some really good news:
“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 & the morning star rises in your hearts.”
It is absolutely true that we live in a very dark world, but trying to comfort ourselves by denying that truth is utter foolishness. Still, it is what much of our world is doing today. I’m sure you’ve heard, “All people are basically & inherently good.” Yet, Jesus Himself said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18 & Luke 18:19 ESV)
Yes, people may find comfort in denying the truth, which of us has not found comfort in telling a little white lie, still, not a single human being ever finds healing in denying the truth. Not a single human being ever finds healing in the darkness. You & I desperately need the light. Our heavenly Father & Creator knows that. He sent His only Son into our world so that we may have eternal life. The Word of God was given to us in order to light the path of our personal lives so we’d be enabled to see. In fact, it’s like a lamp shining in a dark place, a rough, filthy, dismal, squalid & miserable place.
If you insist on believing that this world isn’t all that bad, then what was Peter doing as he wrote these words:
“But by the same word the heavens & earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the Day of Judgment & destruction of the ungodly… But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, & then the heavens will pass away with a roar, & the heavenly bodies will be burned up & dissolved, & the earth & the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
Or, how do you explain the words of John in Revelation 21:8, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters & all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire & sulfur, which is the 2nd death.”
You can’t say that God is fighting hatred with hatred, because God is love & He desires that all would be saved. He sent His only Son to die in the place of every sinful human being. It is the ones who refuse to believe who make the choice of where they will be for eternity. They willfully choose darkness & hatred over the light of our heavenly Father’s love.
Due to the darkness of sin, now we see dimly. The Transfiguration of Jesus is like a lamp giving light to reality – the reality of heaven! The sermon hymn encouraged us to think on the reward of heaven for that brings rest from the troubles & suffering of this life. The Nicene Creed does the same as we recite of Jesus: “He will come again with glory.”
Once Jesus had risen from the dead, Peter was willing to die for the reality of what he saw on the mount of Transfiguration. While you & I weren’t there we do have the prophetic Word, & we do well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place. The world the disciples were experiencing was becoming very dark as they approached Jerusalem where Jesus would be betrayed, suffer & die. Because of what He taught, Caiaphas & the Jewish council would heap shame, mockery & a death sentence for blasphemy upon the world’s Savior.
At His transfiguration, Jesus received honor & glory from God the Father in heaven. Then He announced, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This does not need to be understood as expressing the deity of Jesus, but rather, as asserting that He is Israel who has now fulfilled the terms of the Sinai covenant. It had called for Israel to be obedient.
That covenant was forged on a mountain, & on a mountain God the Father declares that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled it on behalf of all mankind. The transfiguration reveals the glory of Jesus to encourage us as we live under the cross in this life. The cross & then the glory are God’s ordained sequence of salvation. Jesus dies 1st. Then He rises from the dead to eternal life.
Our lives in this broken world are not meant to be heaven. We are here to play our part in rescuing people from hell. A cosmic battle is going on between the powers of darkness & The Power of light. God’s hatred for sin was exhausted upon His Son Jesus at Golgotha. Now is the day of salvation. Now is the favorable time. Let us love our enemies & pray for them.
The last day of time will be our 1st first experience of the glory of Jesus as He returns to earth for the purpose of confining all of evil to hell for the rest of eternity. The transfiguration is evidence of Jesus’ majesty that will be seen by everyone on that Last Day. It is encouraging news for those who trust in Him. It is challenging news for those who do not. Amen.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me & rest; lay down, thou weary one, lay down thy head upon My breast.” I came to Jesus as I was, so weary, worn & sad; I found in Him a resting place, & He has made me glad. I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s light. Look unto Me; thy morn shall rise & all thy day be bright.” I looked to Jesus, & I found in Him my star, my sun; & in that light of life I’ll walk till traveling days are done. Amen. LSB 699:1 & 3
 John 3:16 ESV
 John 8:12 ESV
 2 Peter 3:7 & 10 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet