Summary: We Have See His Glory! 1) By God’s grace 2) Through the gospel
It must have been an awesome sight. Can you imagine it, standing there with Peter, James, and John on that mountain when suddenly Jesus starts glowing and then blazing before your very eyes? John was treated to that sight again on the island of Patmos. What an encouragement that must have been for him since things didn’t seem like they were going very well for Christianity, not with the current emperor Domitian in power anyway. Christians were dying for their faith and John had been arrested and taken away from his beloved congregation in Ephesus. Yet Jesus appeared to John in a way that said: “Remember how I looked on that mountain six months before I was crucified? How I shone brighter than the sun? I was in control then as the glorious Son of God and I’m in control now.”
If only we could see Jesus like that in his glory…and we have! That’s the point of today’s sermon text. The Apostle Paul wants us to know that we have seen his glory, by God’s grace through the gospel.
Paul was writing to a congregation that wasn’t quite sure about his ministry. Was he really sent to them by God? If so, why weren’t there more conversions when Paul preached? I know I’ve asked that same question about the ministry God has given to Mr. Stuht and me. If we’re really from God, then why is it such a struggle to get people in through these doors on a Sunday morning? Paul’s answer is at the same time comforting and troubling. He said: “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 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” (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4).
The reason a blind man can’t see the sun is not because the sun is not shining; it’s because the man is blind. In the same way when people don’t believe the gospel message about Jesus, it isn’t because that message is somehow defective, it’s because Satan, or the god of this age as Paul calls him, has blinded their hearts. The thing is at one time we too were blind to God’s glory. We see that glory now only because God shined faith into our hearts. Paul put it this way: “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” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Paul takes us all the way back to the creation of the world with this passage. He tells us that if God had never said: “And let there be light,” light never would have come into existence. Not even in a million years. In the same way had God not created faith in our hearts we too would still be in spiritual darkness. We would not understand just how offensive our sins are to God and that we need a savior. There would be no hope of salvation for us – not even in a million years.
So why did God choose to shine faith in our hearts? He did so because he felt like it, because of his grace – not because he saw anything in us that would deserve his love. It’s humbling to think, isn’t it, that we’re even lowlier than a humble supermarket vegetable? What do I mean? Well when you go to pick up some fresh produce you make some attempt to pick the best cabbage out of the bin, don’t you? The thing is when God looked at the bin of humanity he saw people who were rotten and good for nothing but to be thrown out of his loving presence. Still he loved us and instead of throwing us out he shined his love on us.
How do we know all this? Through the gospel message, explains Paul, for there we see God’s glory. No, fireworks don’t shoot off the page when you read the good news about what Jesus did to save us from our sins but the events of Jesus’ life, his death, and resurrection are glorious. They’re glorious because through them Jesus provided salvation for all, and they’re glorious because they show off God’s essence. Jesus’ death, for example, shows how God is just and cannot tolerate sin. If God could tolerate sin, he would not have sent his Son to become man and die such a horrible death. At the same time the crucifixion event shows how God is loving. Instead of punishing us, God punished his Son in our place. Through the gospel message you know what makes God, God. Let the philosophers speculate about God’s qualities, you know the truth. You have seen God’s glory through the gospel.