2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
The State of Missouri is called the “Show Me” state... but always thought that should be the “motto” of America... the “Show Me” nation! We want to see something, before we’ll believe! At least, most of us seem to be that way. We need to experience it... touch it... feel it... look at it with our own eyes before we’ll believe it. We want some concrete evidence before we accept something as truth.
But sometimes we have to believe, before we can see! Sometimes we have to believe in order to appreciate certain things. Of course, by “see” I mean to understand. We often use the word “see” that way. “I see what you mean” or “I see what you’re saying” means that we understand (to some degree), we get it!
And when it comes to matters of the Spirit... to see, or to appreciate something before we understand it is called faith. You have to believe first, then understanding follows. We’re called to trust in something that we can’t completely comprehend or explain... So sometimes believing, itself, is enough. It’s all we need.
I think that’s what Paul was trying to tell the Corinthians. To make his point he draws on a story from the Old Testament. In Exodus, Moses made his way up Mount Sinai to talk to God, and receive the Commandments from God. When he came down from the mountain-top, his face was glowing (it was radiant) from having been in the presence of God. The “glow” was so intense that it frightened the people... so Moses began wearing a veil over his face in public so that they would not be frightened.
Paul picked up on this Old Testament story, and used it as a metaphor. Speaking of his contemporaries... specifically his Jewish brothers and sisters who had not accepted Jesus as the Messiah. He says that they couldn’t see the truth about Christ, because their minds were veiled. Even when the prophesies about the Messiah were read and proclaimed, they couldn’t see (or appreciate) Christ in those prophecies and proclamations.
“But (Paul said) when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” When we receive Christ, and believe in him, he sets our minds free. Through faith we are able to see things we could not before. Through the Holy Spirit our minds are opened to the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Christ.
Of course, that’s only the beginning... because when the veil is raised we can see the glory of God, and that glory effects us. It changes us... as it changes our hearts and souls... which in turn, leads us to become more and more like Christ. And that transformation (most often) takes time. But little by little we are being made, and remade, into the likeness of Christ.
That’s the way it worked for Peter! When Jesus famously asked his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?” It was Peter who said, "You are the Christ the son of the living God!" It appeared as if the veil had been lifted, and Peter’s mind was set free to "see" the truth.
But, in reality... Peter's new vision was a little blurry. Because when Jesus followed up on Peter's profession with an explanation of what was to come. "The Son of man must go to Jerusalem and suffer and die." Peter said, "No! Never! That can’t be! I can't see that happening!"
Many times our ability to see, to understand and accept, is hindered by our personal beliefs and what we’re willing to accept as truth! And Peter wasn’t willing to believe that Christ could suffer...
But, about a week later... Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain. And while they were on the mountain Jesus appeared transfigured, standing with Moses and Elijah. And God spoke from the cloud and said, "This is my Son Listen to him."
This Transfiguration experience not only confirmed Peter’s stance that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” - but it also helped Peter (and the other disciples) accept God’s grander (greater) plan... that Jesus would, in fact, suffer and die, and be raised to life in order to bring abundant life to those who believed.
It would take a while! And there would be moments of disbelief and times when Jesus’ disciples refused to accept the plan still. But, eventually Peter could see that this was God's plan. In the end, for Peter, believing in Jesus meant seeing the truth about him.
So why all this talk about Moses, and mountains, and Transfiguration and belief leading to seeing?
Well... it all comes down to faith. Faith opens our eyes. We trust in God and believe in Christ even when we don't fully understand. As God’s Word says, “at this moment we see through a glass (or mirror), dimly” (1 Cor 13:12). And that’s what faith is! It’s the "assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1) It’s believing in what cannot be seen.
But then - through faith, believing - we are set free. Our minds are opened to see the truth. We’re able, through faith, to understand, and appreciate, and accept things that we could not accept before.
And that’s what Transfiguration means for you and me! We’re called to be changed. Not necessarily all at once... it seldom happens like that! But over time, as we surrender more and more of our will, of our wants, of our way... to the Will and way of Christ, and our lives begin to reflect more and more of his love, and grace, and mercy.
Will we understand it all? No! Never on this side of life, anyway...
Of course, that leads some to say, “If I can’t understand it all, I’ll reject it all!” But that’s not how faith works!
Faith is a lot like the ocean... stand on any shore and you can only see a small part of the whole... you can’t see it all... you can only see in fraction. But the part you can see, helps you to know there’s much, much more.
Are you having trouble seeing, appreciating, that God is at work in your life? Do you have difficulty comprehending how Christ can bring peace, and comfort, and joy into your particular situation... your anxiety and grief?
Then believe. Belief is the first step of obedience. Believe in Jesus and in God's love. Believe in the loving presence of God's Holy Spirit. Put your trust in him.
Then by the grace of God, believing will open your heart and mind to seeing more and more of the glory of God, and the grace of God in your life. The veil will be lifted, and you will see.
And that belief is what changes everything... it transforms us... moment by moment... step by step... day by day... making us more, and more... like Christ. Amen.