2 Corinthians 4:5-6 + Matthew 11:25-27
This week of the Transfiguration, we’re still focused on the glory of Christ that is real, but that is hidden from the world. It’s hidden from our eyes, too, so that we can’t see it. But our joy as Christians is that God the Holy Spirit has revealed Christ’s glory to us, so that we believe it is real, so that we see it with the eyes of faith. He has enlightened us with the Gospel so that we both believe that Jesus is true God and true Man, and also believe in Jesus, the God-Man, as the One who speaks the truth to us and saves us from wrath and condemnation by the power of His blood shed on the cross.
Tonight, with Jesus and with the Apostle Paul, we have to take a step back and simply say a prayer of thanks to God for giving us this knowledge, and by knowledge, I mean both knowledge and the confidence that goes with it—faith. And not just to us here, but to all true Christians who hear the preaching of the Gospel and believe in Christ Jesus as a result. Because that faith-knowledge is and always has been hidden from most—hidden, as Jesus says, from the wise and the prudent. Hidden, or “veiled,” as St. Paul writes just a few verses before the ones you heard tonight, veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
It’s not that we have some secret knowledge that we’re unwilling to share with “certain people,” like the lodges or the secret societies of the world claim to have. We preach about Christ Jesus plainly and openly—that He is the Lord, that He came to take away the sin that we have done, as His Law exposes the sinful selfishness that dwells in us by nature and that manifests itself in our thoughts and words and deeds.
Let’s take the example of that Law this evening from the Eighth Commandment, since that’s the one before us this week from the Small Catechism. What does God command?
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or harm his reputation, but excuse him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.
So we should fear and love God in that way. That’s what His commandment requires. You are to put your neighbor up on a pedestal, with guarding his or her reputation being your highest concern. But evaluate your life in the light of just that one commandment for a moment. Start with your household and move outward from there. Start with your family who lives with you—your brothers, your sisters, your parents, children, spouse; and then consider your family that doesn’t live with you—all of them, the ones you get along with and the ones you don’t. Consider your church family—the ones you get along better with and the ones you aren’t as close to. Consider your school, your place of employment. Consider your rulers, your teachers, your pastor, your friends, your actual neighbors where you live. It’s guaranteed by God’s Word that you will find that you haven’t feared or loved God enough to eagerly and constantly guard their reputations, from the heart. You’ve thought the worst about them at times, even though you didn’t really have all the facts or the reasons for their behavior at your disposal, even though no one made you their judge. You’ve spoken or written ill of them. You’ve done things to make them look silly or foolish or incompetent. Or, you haven’t stepped forward when you could to defend them, to excuse them, to make them look good before other people, to stop others from harming your neighbor’s reputation.
Now, whatever the details are of your disobedience to God’s commandment, your sin means that you cannot in any way work yourself away from the Law’s just condemnation. You’ve earned God’s wrath for yourself, and a place in hell.
The Law has been preached to you, which reveals just how deeply your sin runs, that you are no better before God than any other person and you can’t move an inch to fix what you’ve done. But the light of the Gospel shines on a God who is good and merciful, who gave His Son to be punished for the evil you have done. The light of the Gospel shines on Christ, who is good and merciful, and who bore your sins in His body. The light of the Gospel lights up the mercy of God in the face of Christ and shows you where to find the mercy and the forgiveness that you so desperately need: in the ministry of the Word of Christ and the Sacraments of Christ. God the Holy Spirit is active in the preaching of the Gospel, shining the light of Christ Jesus into the world, and penetrating the darkness of your heart with that light.
Not everyone sees it. To them the Gospel is veiled. Their minds are blinded. They don’t believe in this merciful God. Why not? As Paul says, the god of this age—Satan—has blinded their minds. They resist the Holy Spirit. They loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
So what should we do? Is it a matter of saying just the right words to convince them, to lift the veil from the Gospel and to cure the blindness of their minds? Not at all. Jesus and His apostles spoke all the right words. And most still didn’t believe.
What we do, all that we’ve been given to do, is to preach Christ Jesus the Lord. And God the Holy Spirit will enlighten whom He will enlighten. Through His Spirit, Jesus, the Son of God, will reveal the Father to whom He wills to reveal Him, as He said in the Gospel. As for you, to whom the Holy Spirit has revealed the light of Christ so that you believe in Him and confess Him, rejoice in God’s gracious election, and in God’s mercy to you, that you should hear the Gospel rightly preached and have the Sacraments rightly administered, and that you should believe the voice of the Gospel. And we ministers will continue to preach Christ Jesus the Lord, even as you Christians continue to live as lights in the world, serving God and your neighbor by gladly living according to His commandments.
That includes the Eighth Commandment. Part of your everyday worship of God and your light-shining in the world is to love your neighbor according to the Eighth Commandment. In fear of God and love for God, to not tell lies about your neighbor, slander him, betray him, or harm his reputation, but excuse him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything. So you will live in the world as children of God, as children of light, and as the very lights that God has strategically placed into this dark world, that Christ may be honored, and that your neighbor may be helped, and even eternally saved. Amen.