2 Peter 1:16-2:2, 15-19
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 had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.
So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers the way of truth will be maligned. They have left the straight road and have gone astray, following the road of Balaam son of Bosor, who loved the wages of doing wrong, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm; for them the deepest darkness has been reserved. For they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them.
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a boy who was told by a classmate at school that most adults were hiding at least one dark secret and that this made it very
easy to blackmail them by saying, “I know the whole truth,” even when you don’t know anything. The boy decided to go home and try it out. As he was greeted by his mother at the front door he said, “I know the whole truth.” His mother quickly handed him $20 and said, “Just don’t tell your father.” Quite pleased, the boy waited for his father to get home from work and greeted him with, “I know the whole truth.” The father promptly handed him $40 and said, “Please don’t say a word to your mother.” Very pleased, the boy was on his way to school the next day when he saw the mailman at his front door. Of course the boy greeted him by saying, “I know the whole truth.” The mailman dropped the mail, opened his arms and said, “Then come give your FATHER a big hug!”
I don’t suppose the boy expected quite that response from the mailman! But he was getting a little greedy after the generous responses from his parents so perhaps he deserved such a response. You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of them all of the time! Or, more importantly, some truths are more difficult to hear than others. Don’t go poking around for truths unless you’re willing to hear all of them. Truth be told, few of us actually want to hear ALL truths even if we say we do. That’s because few of us are capable of handling all truths, the good and bad alike. Most of us just don’t like hearing raw, unfiltered truths. Raw, unfiltered truths are hard to hear! They can hurt our egos or sense of realities. They can shake us up at our core and cause us to become disoriented, fearful, or hopeless. We say we want the truth and “nothing but the truth” but boy, when we get it, we sure don’t like it sometimes! We’d much rather hear filtered, watered-down truths. We’d much rather hear small doses of truth and generally only those truths that support our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. We all have our own versions of truth that help us get through this life in this world. As modern thinking suggests, your truth is unique to you and different from my truth. We all have our own truths. We all saw how “well” this thinking presented itself in recent years with debate over the truth of our news and news agencies, the so-called “fake news” of our times. And yes, the debate can be attributed to the overwhelming varieties of news sources and 24-7 coverage of anything newsworthy. There are just too many sources, each with their own agendas and slants on the news of the world. But at the core of the debate is this struggle in defining universal truth. If we all have our own truths, then is there room for universal truth anymore? Can we share truths anymore?
The apostle, Peter, seems to think so. There are truths that are universal truths. There are truths that are God’s truths. And Peter was passionate about encouraging us to seek out these truths which in a way was quite ironic. Recall that Peter was the one who denied knowing Jesus during Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Peter was the one who pushed back at the foot washing ceremony. Peter was the one who seemed to always say things that got him in trouble. One would think that Peter was the least interested in seeking out God’s truths. But maybe that was just Peter’s way of seeking God’s truths. He pushed back simply because he wanted better clarification. He said things that engaged Jesus’ teaching and clarification. He was honest in his own misunderstanding. We criticize him for denying Jesus but perhaps it was honestly true confessions. Peter didn’t know Jesus even after 3 years of being with him in his ministry! Peter was speaking HIS truth and we forever criticize him for it! And yet, who among us can honestly say we know Jesus? We might know qualities of Jesus, we might feel his presence in our lives, but none of us knows Jesus. Jesus is God, the great indecipherable God! None of us knows God!
But we can know the qualities of God. We can know the truths of God. And that’s all that Peter wants us to seek out, the truths of God. He tells us to beware of false teachers. He reminds us that he was with our Lord on the mountaintop when the voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” That was HIS truth and he shared it as a way of inviting us to seek God’s truths. So what are some of God’s truths? Well, from that voice’s statement alone, we can derive 2 truths about God: God is a loving God and God is a satisfiable God. If Jesus can please the Father, then so can we. Two very basic truths about God that Peter teaches us from his mountaintop experience. Our God is a loving God and we can please God. Now, what are some more truths of God? Recall Jesus’ words from John’s gospel, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (14:6) A couple more important truths of God are revealed in Jesus’ words. Our God is an accessible God and our God is a God of life. Each of us has access to God through Christ. And our God encourages life and the flourishing of life. Earlier in John’s account we hear Jesus say, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (8:32) Another important truth of God: our God is a liberating God. Our God sets us free from whatever imprisons us. Psalm 145 encourages us, “the Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (vs. 18) Our God is a companion to those who seek him. Five powerful truths of God that are important to know. Peter wants us to know these truths. Heck, Peter knew these truths! He may not have known God but he sure knew some truths of God!
Friends, we ought to seek out these truths and get to know God better. For some, they are difficult truths to hear. I pray they’re not as difficult as hearing the mailman is your father! But Peter’s letter is both a plea and an encouragement to seek God’s truths. So let us be encouraged and give thanks. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.