2 Kings 2:1-12; Ps. 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 3:12—4:6; Mark 9:2-9.
Veil, [W]e are very bold, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor (vv. 12b, 13).
Even at Sinai, the OT was a fading splendor that looked forward to the unparallel glory of God in Christ. Paul calls the Mosaic law a “dispensation of death” being brought to an end (2 Cor. 3:7).
Preaching Christ is of the Spirit and righteousness, an exceedingly greater glory than the law revealed through Moses; for the Mosaic veil to be removed from eyes, one must turn to Christ. (vv. 8-10).
Paul warns the Corinth congregation of preachers and teachers who promote their own renown according to the old glory. These he says, preach “another Jesus … a different Spirit … a different gospel” (11:4) than he delivered, once for all, to the church.
Today, if you wish to dabble in so called “Christian radio/TV” you can endlessly hear “ministers”, household names, preach the law’s glory, as though sinful men can live in accord. Paul contrasts his ministry, saying, “[T]he letter [which is to say, the law] kills, but the Spirit gives life” (3:6b).
In such congregations the law’s former glory and that of the gospel are hopelessly confused; each “glory” competes to nullify grace. But in Christ, “what once had splendor [i.e., the law] has come to no splendor at all” (v. 10); yet in preaching two “glories” the veil over Moses’ face continues to hide the surpassing glory of God in Jesus alone.
It is not that in Christ, the law is done away. The Law must be always be preached; but in light of Christ crucified for sin, the law’s old glory no longer expresses God’s splendor. The law, commands obedience to God, but conveys nothing of his saving power.
The law reveals, “God is holy” (Ps. 99); at best, exposing our hopeless condition apart from God’s grace, who first loved us in Christ (1 Jn. 4:19). Both law and gospel must be preached, for the law certainly reveals God’s character and our failure to measure-up; but there is no longer glory of the law, rather glory alone belongs to Jesus’ saving work.
Paul is not kindly disposed toward pastoral incompetents; renouncing them, “false-apostles” for disgraceful and underhanded ways, cunning and tampering with God’s word (2 Cor. 4:2), to promote their own/or Judaizing notions over the singular glory of the free gospel in Christ.
“Old glory” ministers would transfer the veil of Moses over the hearts of men (vv. 14, 15) to render a “different gospel” that denies the all-sufficient covering of Jesus’ righteous blood.
“[I]n these last days” (Heb. 1:2) a surpassing glory from the HS is revealed; grace and righteousness in Christ alone. Only through Christ preached is the veil taken from our hearts to repentant faith.
On Mt. Transfiguration St. Mark describes the brightness of Jesus’ clothing; but St. Matthew emphasizes his “face shone like the sun” (Mt. 17:2; cf. Luke 9:29). Peter, James, and John heard and saw translated Elijah and resurrected Moses speaking with Jesus.
These Apostles were terrified at the holy shining before their eyes (Mk. 9:6); then, they knew only a ministry of condemnation and death, but now they had entered the precincts of heaven and live.
Peter rolled-out his solution to the terror of immanent holiness; three tents to shield them from Jesus, Elijah and Moses, veiling God’s glory in Jesus to allow them to remain in paradise.
God put an end to Peter’s “good idea”. The cloud of Heaven enveloped Jesus, revealing that he and the Father are one (Jn. 10:30). When the veil was taken away, God’s full glory was revealed, “only Jesus” (v. 8). Later the Apostles, in the Resurrection, would take-away the significance of the Transfiguration; Jesus’ flesh is place of tabernacling with the Father.
Elijah and Moses on Mt. Transfiguration were harbingers of the church’s NT glory of grace. Moses and Jesus, command, “be perfect as God is perfect” (Mt. 5:48); but absent the empowering beatitudes of Jesus to his disciples, the opaque veil of Moses distorts glory and perfection.
The three Apostles hearing the Father, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him”, the cloud was removed for their seeing God’s singular glory; Jesus only (Mk. 9:7, 8).
We opened today’s worship with a Pentecost hymn (LSB 503, “O Day Full of Grace”). Discerning Jesus transfigured, we approach Lent and Holy Week. The Transfiguration is not a discrete event; rather it is prequel to Easter’s resurrection recapitulated on Pentecost Day for life of the church.
The church’s NT power brings St. Paul’s conversion on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-19) to mind. Saul hated Christ and his church; heaven’s veil was torn away, exposing Paul to the blinding Light of Jesus, incarnate Word.
Paul’s eyes were veiled by something like “scales”, until faith, brought Paul to Baptism from Ananias, returning sight to the splendor of new Zion’s Holy Eucharist (vv. 17-19).
Israel was an adulterous bride, who promised to love, honor, and “obey” (Ex. 19:8) incapable of reconciling her promise with her sin nature. God is holy; we profane. On Mt. Transfiguration, Moses, communing with Jesus, was now prophet of a new glory: a new Blood and a new Covenant.
Delivering the law from Sinai (Exodus 20) Moses “took the blood of the peace offering … threw it against the altar [of Presence] … And took the blood and threw it on the people…” (24:6-8). Here was the archetype of unconfused law and gospel now preached in new Zion.
The NT Blood of God’s Lamb sprinkles hearts to repentance, unveiling the greater glory of God in Christ, “[transforming us] into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18b).
On Mt. Transfiguration, Elijah is prophet of Jesus’ new “exodus” (Luke 9:31) passing through the “valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4) to be God’s “peace offering” on the cross, veiling our sins and a new holiness before God.
The appearance of Elijah with Jesus catechizes the church’s new exodus, moving from “old glory” to “new”; we first must pass by way of Gethsemane and Golgotha. Jesus, like Elijah, is resurrected not apart from his chariot (2 Kg. 2:11, 12), the all-sufficiency of his fiery passion.
According to the Spirit’s ministry of grace, there is one Jesus, one Spirit, and one gospel trumping the law’s condemnation by the greater splendor: grace by faith in Christ alone “apart from the works of the law” (Rom. 3:28). Amen.