Sermon - 2/11/18
2018.02.12 22:36:39

TRANSFIGURATION/B (2018): 2 Kings 2:1-12; 2 Corinthians 3:12—4:6; Mark 9:2-9.    


Veil,   [W]e are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.  But their minds were hardened.  For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains un-lifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.  Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.  But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed…  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of God, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (vv. 12-16, 18). 


St. Paul is commenting on the Book of Exodus, when Moses received the tablets of law for a second time atop Mt. Sinai.  When he descended the mountain his face shone with the glory of the Lord.  The people were afraid to look upon Moses face to face, so that whenever Moses would speak the Lord’s commands, he veiled his face (Exodus 34:29 ff.). 


Paul calls the glory, the law written on stone tablets, revealed from Moses’ face and words, a ministry of condemnation and death, even then being brought to an end (2 Cor. 3:7).  Paul favorably compares his ministry of preaching Christ to be of the Spirit and of righteousness, an exceedingly greater glory than revealed by Moses (vv. 8-10). 


Writing to the Corinthian congregation Paul warns of intruding preachers and teachers who, in his absence promote their own renown from a Mosaic glory.  It is “another Jesus… [of] a different Spirit… [and is] a different gospel” than that the Corinthian church received and accepted from him (11:4). 


Today as well, we may find ministers in congregations preaching the law’s glory, as though sinful men are able to live in accordance.  Such Mosaic ministers Paul calls ministers of condemnation and death.  Paul puts the danger and the contrast to his own ministry this way, “[T]he letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (v. 6).  


In such congregations the former glory of law and the NT gospel are hopelessly confused, each “glory” competing against the other, nullifying the Spirit’s grace.  But in Christ, “what once had glory [the law] has come to no glory at all” (v. 10); and yet by mixed preaching of both “glories” the veil of Moses continues to hide the surpassing glory of God revealed in Christ alone.


It is not that in Christ, the law is done away with; rather in light of Christ crucified for sin, the law is no longer the glory of God as for a time by the old covenant; the law in commanding obedience possesses no power to save; neither does its preaching draw us to repentance. 


At best, the law necessarily reveals our deplorable and hopeless condition apart from the grace of God who has first loved us in Christ (1 Jn. 4:19).  Law and gospel must be preached but there is no longer a glory of the law, rather glory is alone of Christ and his saving work. 


Paul is not kindly disposed toward the pastorally incompetent.  He renounces such pastors and teachers as “false-apostles” for disgraceful and underhanded ways, cunning and tampering with God’s word (2 Cor. 4:2), promoting their own or Judaizing legal notions over the singular glory of the free gospel in Jesus.  


Such ministers of the “old glory” attempt to transfer the veil from Moses’ face over the hearts and minds of men (vv. 14, 15), a “different gospel” that denies the all sufficient covering of Christ’s righteous blood.


“[I]n these last days” (Heb. 1:2) a superior, surpassing glory of the HS is revealed, that of grace and righteousness in Christ.  Only through Christ preached in the Spirit of Truth is the Mosaic veil taken away, bringing us now to revelation at the Transfiguration of our Lord. 


St. Mark mentions the brightness of Jesus’ clothing.  St. Matthew (17:2) better informs (cf. Luke 9:29); Jesus’ “face shone like the sun”.  For Peter, James, and John the veiling cloud of God’s glory is removed in hearing the Father speak, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Mk. 9:7). 


The revelation of the Transfiguration reminds us of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1-19); both epiphanies are of Jesus’ Resurrection.  Paul, on the road to Damascus, was possessed of demonic hatred toward Christ and his body, the NT church. 


Abruptly the veil of heaven was taken away, exposing Paul to the light of the incarnate Word, blinding him.  Graciously, his eyes were veiled by something like scales, until faith, wrought by Jesus’ speech from heaven and Ananias’ earthly ministry of God’s new glory, returned Paul’s sight and into the church’s life giving Baptism and Eucharist (vv. 17-19).    


Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration heard and saw translated Elijah and resurrected Moses speaking face to face with Jesus shining as the sun.  Like the Israelites of old, the apostles were terrified at glory (v. 6), for as yet they only knew the ministry of Moses that betokened condemnation and death through the law. 


Peter, from confusion, suggested a solution; an alternative covering to shield them from the glorious Light; three tabernacles, that would allow the apostles to remain in the presence they beheld. 


At the suggestion God intervened, The Cloud of heaven enveloped Jesus revealing he and the Father as one.  The Father concluded speaking and the veiling cloud was taken away disclosing the central truth of God’s glory, “only Jesus” (v. 8).  The Apostles find themselves with Jesus alone in whose flesh the NT church has her true tabernacle with the Father and the saints of heaven on the Way. 


As in the OT, the appearance of Elijah and Moses on the Mount teach and point the Way to the NT church’s only glory of grace and Spirit.  The law of Moses commands God’s people to, “be perfect as God is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).  Israel was an adulterous bride; verbally they promised God to love, honor, and “obey” (Exodus 19:8), yet incapable of reconciling their words to the Lord with their sin nature. 


In that self-knowledge, Israel required that Moses shield them from their espoused calling to fidelity and the glory of God’s holiness revealed in law.  God is who he is (holy); and we are who we are (profane).  By the law, Moses was minister of glory, but in Israel’s breach the old covenant was condemnation and death. 


But Moses was also a prophet of future hope, offering another ministry, a covenant in blood; a different glory pointing to a New Covenant.  Moses first delivered the law (Exodus 20) and then gathered the people “took the blood (of a peace offering)… took half the blood and threw it against the altar…  And took the blood and threw it on the people…” (24:6-8).  Here was the archetype preaching of unconfused law and gospel. 


On the Mount of Transfiguration Moses directs us to the NT of Jesus’ “exodus” (Luke 9:31) through the “valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4) to be God’s “peace offering” on the cross for sin.  The sacrificial Blood of God’s Paschal Lamb on the NT altar of the cross Eucharistically sprinkles repentant hearts, unveiling the greater glory of God in Christ and “[transforming us] into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18b).    


Elijah’s presence on the Mount (whom Jesus informs is Scripture’s latter day JB, Mk. 9:12, 13) catechizes us of the necessity of Gethsemane and Golgotha to where Jesus would now descend, his apostles in tow.  Jesus is not resurrected apart from his chariot of fire (2 Kg. 2:11, 12), consumed and lifted to God’s new glory in the cross’ fiery Passion by the HS.  Elijah’s fiery exit into heaven directs Peter, James, John, and the church to our “all-sufficient sacrifice” for the sin of the world (unbelief) and forgiveness of sins.   


According to the Spirit’s ministry of grace preached by Paul in Corinth, there is but one Jesus, one Spirit, and one gospel completely trumping the law’s condemnation; a greater glory of grace by faith in Christ alone “apart from the works of the law” (Rom. 3:28).  Amen.





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