The World of Cleverly Devised Myths

Transfiguration Sunday has passed. St. Peter reminds us that the world is becoming new. The experience of the Apostles was real. Jesus was giving his disciples a preview of the glory of the Resurrection and the life it would bring. 

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and the 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.” (2 Peter 1:16-18 NRSV)

To say Peter was impressed would be an understatement. Matthew 17:1-9 gives an account of the story where Peter is amazed to see Christ glorified and in Christ’s glory he sees the great Prophets Moses and Elijah. We know the story. Peter wishes to build three shrines. He does not realize that he sees Moses and Elijah (both of whom in traditional teaching had been assumed into Heaven) are present in the glory of Christ and not their own. Peter is corrected on this matter by the voice from God the Father. This second letter attributed to him shows the lesson has been learned. There is no “Oh, and Moses and Elijah were there too” statement. 

The point made in this letter is that it was not a cleverly devised tale. It is not Odysseus building a wooden horse to fool the Trojans. There is no tale of Aeneas escaping Troy to eventually settle near Rome. Nor is there even a rumor that when Caesar Augustus died his spirit ascended to the Heavens. These stories and many like them made a world of heroes and servant/admirers. They made heroes out of weak people and nations. They hearkened to the glorious past. And they legitimized present day (St. Peter’s time) evils done by the rulers who were regarded as heroes. 

Peter says this is very different. He is not creating a new myth. He is giving a good news greater than that evangel previously given by Augustus bringing the Peace of Rome to the benighted world. It is greater and will bring more changes to the Mediterranean world than anyone can imagine. More changes than Peter himself could have thought possible.

Peter saw in Christ the reign of God. He saw the Resurrection and the restoration of all things. He saw Moses in the Promised Land. Peter and his fellow disciples witnessed greatness to come. He saw divine promises kept. And he knew the important action he needed to take was to listen, really listen, to the Son the Beloved to know what being pleasing to God meant. 

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