March 3, 2019
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
The Light of the Transfiguration Continues to Shine!
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Have you ever stopped to consider how important light is? If you were asked to choose between light or darkness— which one would you choose? Most people would probably choose light. Life as we know it depends on light, doesn’t it. If it weren’t for light the plants would die, the animals would die and we human beings would die. We who experience light each and every day may think that we know what true darkness is like, but in reality we don’t. Even at night, even if we were to turn off all the lights in our home there is still ambient light that allows our eyes to see after they have had time to adjust. The only place where we might find true darkness is deep inside a cave. But if you’ve ever experienced true darkness you know just how frightening and just how oppressive it can be. You literally cannot see your hand in front of your face!
It shouldn’t surprise us then when we see that light is a major topic on the pages of Scripture. In fact, do you remember the very first words of God recorded in the Bible? In Genesis 1:3 we hear God say, “Let there be light.” Light is also a major theme of the Epiphany season. The Season of Epiphany begins with the light of a special star guiding the Wise Men to the “One who has been born king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). The Season of Epiphany shines a light on aged Simeon who praises the Sovereign Lord for fulfilling His promise and sending into this world the One who is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:32). It is only fitting then, my friends, that as the Season of Epiphany comes to a close today that we once again focus our attention on light. Today then on this glorious Transfiguration Sunday let’s see how: The Light of the Transfiguration Continues to Shine!
Our text begins by highlighting a critically important truth. Look at what Paul says, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The picture that Paul is using here goes back to 2 Corinthians chapter three where Paul compares the “glory” of the “old covenant,” the covenant God gave to His people through Moses, with the “surpassing glory” of the “new covenant,” the covenant which is founded on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. As we heard in our Old Testament Lesson for today (Exodus 34:29-35) when Moses came down from Mount Sinai after receiving the Law directly from God his face was so “radiant” that it frightened not only Aaron, but all the people of Israel. So after Moses had spoken to the people he put a veil over his face. But when he spoke with the Lord Moses removed the veil. (See Exodus 34:29-35)
Paul uses that picture to remind us that the glorious message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is “veiled to those who are perishing.” Why is it “veiled” to them? Because Satan, the “god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” When a blind person is not able to see the sun, it is not because the sun is not there. It is not because the sun is not shining. It is because they are blind! When those who are “perishing” in their unbelief do not believe or trust in the glorious message of the Gospel, it is not because the Gospel is untrue. It is not because the Gospel lacks power. It is because the “god of this age has blinded” their minds and their hearts! They are living with a shroud of death “veiling” their eyes. Whether they realize it or not, they are stumbling through this sin-darkened world like a blind person striving to find their own way out of the deepest darkest cave there is.
Because the unbelievers are living with that dark shroud “veiling” their eyes, because the unbelievers have been “blinded” by Satan, we should not be surprised when they cannot see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The darkness of unbelief is their “default setting.” The darkness of unbelief is all they know. The darkness of unbelief insures that the glorious message of the cross of Jesus Christ sounds like pure “foolishness” to them. (See 1 Corinthians 1:18) And let’s not forget, my friends, that at one time we too were “blinded” by the “god of this age.” At one time we too had the dark “veil” of unbelief covering our eyes.
Are we still “blind”? Do we still have that “veil” of unbelief preventing us from seeing the true light? No! Why? How? Look at what Paul says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ made his light shine in our hearts.” The very same God who said, “’Let there be light’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3) is the very same God who used the power of His holy Word and the power of His holy Sacraments to shine His true light into our sin-darkened hearts and fill us with the light of faith! That precious gift of faith enables us and empowers us to “see” two glorious truths.
First, the light of faith which God Himself has shined into our hearts enables us to see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.” Only the Gospel has the power to reveal to us that the “glory of Christ” is found in the fact that He is the “image of God.” The Greek word which is translated here as “image” is the word “eikon” which means “likeness, image, form, appearance.” To put it very simply, when we see Jesus we see the one and only true God. Jesus emphasized this very same truth to His disciples on Maundy Thursday. Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8, 9). The writer to the Hebrews states that same truth in this way, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). Peter, James and John were eyewitnesses of this truth on the Mount of Transfiguration when Luke tells us in our text, “As he (Jesus) was praying, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightening.”
How does the fact that Jesus is “the image, the eikon, of God” tie in with the “light of the gospel”? In an absolutely beautiful comforting way! As I was researching that Greek word “eikon” it became very very easy for me to see the “light of the gospel.” Through the power of the Gospel God removes the “veil” from our eyes, He cures us of the “blindness” that the “god of this age” has inflicted upon us and He changes us! Here in this life God changes us so that as we grow in our faith, as we grow in our understanding of holy Scripture, as we grow in our trust in Him (pointing to the cross) we regain more and more of the “image,” the “eikon,” of the Lord our God. In Romans 8:29 Paul writes, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness (eikon) of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” And just a few verses before our text for today Paul writes, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness (eikon) with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18; See also Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:22-24). And in eternity God will change us so that we once again perfectly possess “image” of God— the “Reflection of God’s Perfection” that Adam and Eve lost when they sinned against their loving Creator. (See Genesis 1:26, 27) In 1 Corinthians 15:49 Paul writes, “And just as we have borne the likeness (eikon) of the earthly man, so we shall bear the likeness (eikon) of the man from heaven (Jesus).” (See also Philippians 3:20-21) In other words, just as Moses and Elijah appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration “in glorious splendor” so shall we! The instant our physical body dies our soul will appear “in glorious splendor” in our heavenly Father’s Home. And when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth, raises our physical body from our grave and reunites it with our soul, we will live “in glorious splendor” for all of eternity! Only the Gospel has the power to make that guarantee!
The second truth that Paul brings out here in our text is that the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness” has used the powerful message of the Gospel to make “his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” While this truth very closely parallels the one we just looked at, I see in it an added truth. That truth is this: When we look into the “face of Christ” as it is revealed to us on the pages of Scripture we are able to see “the knowledge of the glory of God.” Let’s think this through, my friends. When we look into the “face” of the Child of Bethlehem we are able to see “the knowledge of the glory of God” in the fact that from all of eternity the Lord God knew that the only way to save us from our own sins was to send His holy begotten Son into this world as our true Brother. When we look into the “face” of the twelve-year-old Jesus who willingly “submitted” to the authority of His earthly parents even though they were mortal sinful human beings (Luke 2:46), we see “the knowledge of the glory of God” in the fact that Jesus lived an absolutely perfect life in our place, always keeping all of God’s Law for us. (See Hebrews 4:15) When we look into the “face” of Jesus as He cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34), we see “the knowledge of the glory of God” in the fact that God’s Son was willing to endure the fiercest punishment of hell so that we don’t have to! When we look into the “face” of the risen Christ who said to His disciples on Easter Sunday, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19) we see “the knowledge of the glory of God” in His assurance (Pointing to the cross) that through faith in what He has done for us we have true lasting “peace” with the God of heaven— not only now, but also in eternity! Yes, my friends, any time we want to see, anytime we want to understand the “glory” of God’s grace or the “glory” of God’s compassion or the “glory” of God’s love or the “glory” of God’s power or the “glory” of God’s free gift of salvation all we need to do is look into the “face” of Jesus! (Pointing to the cross)
Light. There is no debate when it comes to the importance of light. Just as our physical life depends on physical light, so also our spiritual life depends on spiritual light— the light that the Living God shines into our heart through His powerful Means of Grace. May the good Lord grant that as we prepare to leave the light-filled Season of Epiphany and enter into the solemn Season of Lent that we will always remember and always rejoice in this truth: The Light of the Transfiguration Continues to Shine!
To God be the glory!