The Unveiled God
February 15, 2015
This morning we have come to one of the most important transitional times in the church year. This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, and so this Sunday we commemorate the Transfiguration of our Lord. Transfiguration is not a minor event, but the apex of the liturgical season of Epiphany. Epiphany is a season of light and of the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the God. Recall the star that leads the magi to the infant Jesus. In the transfiguration, a similar light shows the way to Jesus, this time not a star, but the morning star, the Light that is a person, Jesus Christ. We read about Jesus taking Peter, James, and John up upon a high mount and being transfigured before them, Hs clothes become radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. The glory of the Lord shines in the face of Jesus, revealing who He is. The season of Epiphany now concludes with how it began in Jesus’ baptism, with God the Father speaking, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.” Jesus displays His divine glory and to prepare His disciples for His death and resurrection. This is the revelation, the epiphany, of the glory of the Lord in front of His disciples.
And so it is for us as well. The glory of the Lord is revealed to us today, that we would be prepared for His death and resurrection. This is not just so that we would know Jesus, but so that we would know what Jesus has done for us on the cross of Christ, that we would prepare our hearts and minds to receive Him as He reveals Himself to us, both on the Last Day and His great return, as well as through His means of grace.
Though lowly in appearance to the world, we see the glory of God revealed to us in His Word and Sacraments. To the world, and even to some within Christianity, this seems silly. It’s just words, just water, just bread and wine. And so it is these earthly things, but not “just” these things. Here God hides Himself in the lowly and humble ways so that even the lowliest and most ignorant of sinners might know these are the means where God locates Himself.
But the world does not see, will not see, cannot see the Lord. In our Epistle reading from 2 Cor. 3:14–18, St. Paul next uses the figure of the veil to discuss Israel’s present unbelief. As the people of Israel could not see Moses’ face because of the veil, so their minds remain hardened and a veil covers their hearts today as they hear the voice of Jesus in Holy Scripture. Only in Christ is this veil abolished (3:14) and only in repentance is it removed (3:15).
Apart from Jesus there is no belief in God, for no one can know the Father except through the Son. Why do some people not believe? Those on the road to condemnation are blinded by the god of this age and so do not see the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (4:3–4). Because their head is covered up. Covered up in sin, in denial, in rejection, in unbelief.
How is this veil removed? Through faith in Christ, through repentance, and forgiveness of sins that Jesus won on the cross. The solution for such “blindness” is in the open proclamation of Jesus Christ through which “light would shine out in darkness to affect enlightenment” (4:6). You cannot remove this veil, but the Lord has removed it from you through faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of your sins.
Listen now to the words of the Benediction, from Numbers 6, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” This isn’t a question. This isn’t a “maybe” this will happen. This is a blessing given from God to His people, that the glory of God, in the face of Jesus, is for you.
The Hebrew word for face is also the word to be in the presence of, in the sense to be in front of your face. To see God’s face is to be in front of Him, to enter His presence, which typically in the Old Testament referred to visiting the temple for worship. As blind people, we can’t just open up our eyes and see what it right in front of us. Our eyes have to be opened, our sight restored. Jesus unveils God face to us. To be unveiled is to see God’s face, the face of Jesus, to be in His presence, which happens in worship as He comes to us through His Word and Sacrament.
Listen to the first verse of one of our Communion hymns, “Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face; Here would I touch and handle things unseen; Here grasp with firmer hand the eternal grace, And all my weariness upon Thee lean” (LSB 631:1). While we live here and now, this revelation of the glory of God in Jesus doesn’t quite fit our grandiose picture of God’s majesty. Easy to lose focus during this time of the year, veil the cross of Christ from our lives. Both in the great suffering that Jesus underwent on the cross and the glory of the cross.
The veil of darkness has been lifted from your through faith in Christ. For the glory of His divine majesty scatters the darkness of your sin, the devil, and death itself. While we still see through a mirror dimly, then we will see face to face. As we journey with Jesus throughout the upcoming Lenten season, as He sets His face toward the cross, so upon the cross, He set His face upon you so that your sins are forgiven.