February 11, 2024
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
From the Jordan to the Mountain—
A Glimpse of His True Glory!
3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4The 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. 5For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For 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,
Six weeks ago we embarked on a journey— a journey that started at the Jordan River. Don’t you wish you could have been there to see Jesus’ baptism? Don’t you wish you could have been there to see the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove and to hear the heavenly Father say to Jesus, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11)?
As we continued on our journey with Jesus we heard Him call His first disciples, we heard Him teach with authority. We saw Him cast out demons and heal many people who had various diseases. Don’t you wish you could have been there!
Today we followed along with Peter, James and John as Jesus led them up the Mount of Transfiguration where His face shone like the sun, His clothes because dazzling white and He talked with Moses and Elijah as they discussed Jesus’ “departure” from this world, a “departure” which He was about to bring to fulfillment in Jerusalem. And once again we heard the heavenly Father speak. This time He says to us, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7) Don’t you wish you could have been there!
As we come to the end of our journey through the season of Epiphany, as we come to the end of our sermon series entitled From the Jordan to the Mountain, God the Holy Spirit has His servant Paul remind us that through the holy inspired words of Scripture we can indeed “see” and “hear” all of these wonderful things. With that truth in mind, let’s close our sermon series by focusing on this truth: While Jesus of Nazareth may have looked like an ordinary carpenter or your average rabbi or just another prophet, through the pages of Scripture we are given: A Glimpse of His Glory!
Paul begins our text in what might seem like a rather odd way. He says, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.” What might seem rather odd to us was quite familiar to any Jewish person who heard or read these words. God the Holy Sirit has the apostle Paul take his readers all the way back to another mountain— Mt. Sinai. In Exodus 34 we’re told that when Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Law directly from God Himself, he didn’t realize that being in the presence of the Glory of the Lord caused a physical change in Moses. Scripture tells us, “When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him” (Exodus 34:30). Because the people were afraid of Moses he put a veil over his face whenever he talked to God’s people, but he removed the veil when he was in the presence of the Lord.
In the verses preceding our text Paul reveals another reason Moses put a veil over his face. In 2 Corinthians chapter 3:13 & 14 Paul writes, “We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.”
Without a doubt the “old covenant” came with glory— but it was a “reflected glory,” a glory that was “fading away.” This reality reminds us that we cannot be saved by following the “old covenant.” We cannot be saved by following the Law. The Law is like a mirror that “shows us our sin” and our need for a Savior. In Galatians chapter three the apostle Paul compares the Law to a “guardian” who was given the responsibility of watching over a young child until that child reached the age of maturity. Paul writes, “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law” (Galatians 3:24, 25).
At the same time we cannot ignore the fact that the Law clearly revealed to God’s people how their sins would be atoned for. With each animal that was sacrificed, God’s people were taught that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (See Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22) Each year, on the Day of Atonement, when the sins of God’s people were transferred to an innocent “scapegoat,” God’s people were learning how God would redeem the world by transferring our sins to Someone else. With every Passover celebration God’s people were taught to look to “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). That was the “Old Covenant”— a glorious truth, but veiled and intended to fade away.
The ”New Covenant,” the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News which proclaims that Jesus, the Lamb of God, has indeed reached His goal of taking away the sins of the world (Pointing to the cross) is not veiled. The “New Covenant” is not and will never “fade away”! But, to “those who are perishing,” that is, to those who do not believe and trust in Jesus as their Savior, the glorious message of the Gospel is “veiled.” How? Why?
Paul explains this to us when he goes on to say in our text, “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.” If a blind person does not see the sun, it’s not because the sun is not there. It’s not because the sun is not shining. It’s because they are blind. If those who are “perishing” in the darkness of their unbelief do not believe the Gospel, it’s not because the Gospel is untrue. It’s not because the Gospel lacks power. It’s because the “god of this age”— Satan— has “blinded their minds.” That is the ultimate tragedy of unbelief. Satan “blinds” the unbelievers so that they are more ready to believe his lies than they are to believe the truth of the message of the Gospel.
While Peter, James and John were able to see the glory of Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, we are able to see a glimpse of the glory of Christ every time we read or hear the message of the Gospel. The Gospel enables us to see that Jesus is “the image of God.” In Jesus we see the “exact representation” of God. (See Hebrews 1:3) In Jesus we see God’s love for this world. In Jesus we see God’s power. In Jesus we see God’s willingness to suffer and die to pay for our sins. In Jesus we see God’s forgiveness. In Jesus we see God’s victory over sin, death and the devil. In Jesus the “veil” is removed from our hearts so that we can see the message of the Gospel in all of its glory!
Because Jesus is “the image of God,” Paul goes on to tell us, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” Paul used these words to help us understand what it means to be a true “servant” of God, a “servant” who strives to “serve” God’s people. A true “servant” of God does not stand up in front of God’s people and strive to draw attention to himself, his own abilities and his own charisma. A true “servant” of God does not try to manipulate God’s people for his own personal gain. A true “servant” of God does not peddle their own solutions for what is wrong in this world or their own system for successful living.
No, my friends, a true “servant” of God “preaches” or “proclaims” Jesus Christ as Lord! Those who “preach” or “proclaim” themselves are only setting themselves up for disappointment and disaster when people do not believe their message or when people come to realize that they are simply promoting their own opinions. Those who “preach” or “proclaim” the Good News about Jesus— Who He is and what He has done to save us from our sins (Pointing to the cross)— realize that their God-given responsibility is to clearly and faithfully proclaim God’s Word and let the Holy Spirit do what only the Holy Spirit can do, namely, take away the “veil” of unbelief from someone’s eyes and give them the faith that enables them to believe and trust in Jesus as their Savior!
That truth ties in very well with the closing verse of our text. Paul writes, “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.” This verse reveals to us why this portion of Scripture was assigned to Transfiguration Sunday.
There is only one reason why Paul or any of his fellow “servants” are able to “preach Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” It is because the same Almighty God who created light on the first day of Creation by simply saying “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3), is the same Almighty God who “made his light shine in our hearts.” In Spiritual matters we human beings don’t even have a glimmer of light inside of us. In spiritual matters there is only darkness and unbelief in our hearts. In spiritual matters there is a “veil” that prevents us from seeing, believing and trusting in the Truth of the Gospel. It takes God’s power to shine the light of the Gospel into our hearts. It takes God’s power to give us “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” It takes God’s power to take away the “veil” of unbelief. Note, my friends that there is nothing we can or need to do. There is nothing we can or need to add. Just as God created light to “shine out of darkness” on the first day of Creation, so also God used the “light” of the Gospel to penetrate the darkness of our sinful unbelieving hearts and give us the faith that enables us to see “the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
Not in a pillar of cloud, not in a pillar of fire, not as a reflection in the face of Moses, but in the face of Jesus Christ we get to know and to see and to experience God’s glory. In Christ the Lord’s face shines on us. In Christ the Lord looks on us with His favor. To people like us— people who by nature are stumbling around in spiritual darkness, people who by nature are groping blindly as we unknowingly are getting closer and closer to the cliff that leads to eternal death, to people like us comes the One who reveals to us the light of God’s undeserved and unfailing love. And how does He do this? He does this through the “lamp” that we call His holy revealed Word.
There is one more truth that we need to look at this morning. Every time we open up our Bibles and see a glimpse of Jesus’ true glory— we also get a glimpse of our own glory! Paul reminds us of this glorious truth when he says in the verses preceding our text, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthains 3:18).
As God the Holy Spirt continues to work in our hearts through His holy Word and His holy Sacrament, as God the Holy Spirit continues to strengthen and deepen our faith, we become more and more like Christ. The way that we speak, the way that we think, the way that we live our life becomes more and more “Christ-like”! Do you realize what that means? It means that as our faith matures, as we become better and better at reflecting the glory of Christ— it will become easier and easier for other people to get a glimpse of His glory (Pointing to the cross) in us and through us!
While we might wish that we could have been at the Jordan River to see Jesus being baptized, to see God the Holy Spirit descend on Him like a dove, and to hear the heavenly Father say to Him, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased,” while we may wish that we could have been on the Mount of Transfiguration to see Jesus’ divine glory radiate forth from His human body, to hear Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus about His “departure” from this world, with the ears of faith we can and do hear the heavenly Father say to us, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
My prayer this morning is that as we come down from the Mount of Transfiguration and as we begin our journey through the season of Lent, the glimpse of Jesus’ true glory that we have been given in the season of Epiphany will prepare our hearts to follow Him to the cross on Calvary’s hill (Pointing to the cross), to the empty tomb in the garden and ultimately, to follow Jesus into His eternal heavenly Home where we will see Him in all of His power, majesty and glory!
To God be the glory!