“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
I know that I’m a halfway decent public speaker. Definitely not the best, not even among my close friends and colleagues, but it usually goes alright. I’m probably not the worst either. With a little bit of effort, I can manage to be convincing, to show off the good sides of my topic and to leave the bad sides in the background – noted, but not emphasized.
If I would do that, we wouldn’t really have to speak of “cleverly devised myths,” not quite yet. But still, it is a pretty similar matter: By doing that, I could twist the message a little to make it more attractive, to make it impress you more, maybe so that my proclamation could have more success.
It’s surely possible to aim for more success than the Holy Spirit himself attains. And not even just possible – it’s a well-known thing that happens. The Apostle Peter doesn’t just explain here that he’s not doing it, but a few verses later he warns about how it already has happened and will keep happening. “False teachers” is what he calls the men who do that. So:
First of all: Peter didn’t make up that stuff about Jesus.
Not at all. Rather, the things he tells about back then are thing he remembers. He was there while Jesus preached and healed people, and he wasn’t far when he was crucified. He saw him with his own eyes after the resurrection. And here, he’s speaking of having been there for what we call Jesus’ “transfiguration,” when Moses and Elijah appeared on the mountain with Jesus and God declared that he was well-pleased. Peter got to see for a second how majestic this Jesus was, and afterward he didn’t want to be preaching about anyone else.
And second: There are people who corrupt Christian teaching.
This happens, for example, when you say that Jesus wasn’t God, or that he never resurrected, in other words, when people say that what Peter said was nonsense. But it also happens when people say all kinds of things about Jesus that Peter knew nothing about.
These days, people connect Jesus’ return to all sorts of things going on in the world: He’ll come back when we’ve done enough mission work; or he’ll come back when we’ve sufficiently purified our country or our church from sin; or he’ll come back when a particular political party has finished its time ruling…
Cleverly devised myths – every one of them. Not to be believe, but certainly exciting, because they give us a way to measure how long until Jesus returns, or they tell us what we’re supposed to do to hurry it along.
It works to draw people in, but it doesn’t bring Jesus any closer. That’s why Peter stuck to what he’d experienced. And so I try to to stick to what he proclaims in the bible. Maybe I could gather more people, but the cost would be too high. There’s only one message that leads to heaven.