The Transfiguration of Our Lord – Epistle

by Crossings

Glory and The Greater Glory
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Analysis by Cathy Lessmann

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. 14But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

4:1Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

DIAGNOSIS: The Glory of the Law

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – The Glory that Straitjackets
To be sure Paul admits, the Law, “chiseled in letters on stone tablets,” did arrive in a blaze of glory. It did “reflect” God. But its glory was so blinding, so harsh, so deadly, that Moses was forced to put a veil over his face (3:7)! To be a recipient of such glory is much like being a misbehaving child whose parent glares (glowers) at her from across the room. The child immediately understands the end (as in “purpose”) of the glower and stops in her tracks. She crumbles, loses heart (4:1), shrivels up; her activities come to “an end.” The glower strikes her down. In effect, the parent could just as easily have straitjacketed the child–giving her no room to wiggle or escape. The Law works the same way. Its truth (about us) is piercing criticism, it puts us “in our place,” it straitjackets us. This first kind of glory, Paul says, is a “ministry of condemnation” (3:9).

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – The Glory that Blinds
Trouble is, no one is able to recognize this truth about the Law. Its blinding glory is … well, blinding! The glory of the Law obscures human perception, and deceives people into believing that the Law gives the life that counts. “Indeed,” Paul says, “to this very day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds” (3:15), with the result that “minds were hardened” (3:14).

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – The Glory that Kills
Paul continues: Moses “put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside” (3:12). “The end” has three meanings here (as hinted above), and Paul intends all of them. First, “the end” means “time is up.” The glory of the Law was scheduled to end, to be “was set aside” when the greater glory came along (3:11). Paul notes, “Indeed, what once had glory has lost it because of the greater glory,” that is, the arrival of Jesus (3:10). The second meaning of “the end” is “the purpose of.” Now the stakes get personal. Unfortunately, there is no way to describe this “end” delicately (although that allusion to “straitjackets” should have tipped us off)! The purpose of the Law is nothing less than to kill us! Just as the parent’s glower is intended to stop the child, so is God’s glower intended to stop us cold. “The letter kills” (3:6). Third, “the end” means “the result” or “the consequence.” Thus the “end” of the law is ultimately to hasten our death, which is why the ministry of the Law is also called a “ministry of death” (3:7).

PROGNOSIS: The Glory of Jesus

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) – The Glory that Saves
With Jesus, a different kind of glory arrives which Paul describes as a “greater glory” (3:10). This glory is “permanent” (3:11) and it “gives life” (3:6). It signals “the end” of the first glory. Here, again, all three meanings of “the end” apply and, in fact, wondrously converge in Jesus. But first, it is crucial to note that the former glory does not end simply because it is discarded. God does not just flip the switch on the first glory and apologize for having turned it on in the first place. No, its power blazes on–beaming directly at us. It ends only because Jesus positions himself between it and us. He takes the Law’s deadly heat. That’s what Jesus did on the cross. He allowed the glower of the Law to destroy him. He suffered both the end (as in “the purpose”) of the Law and the end (as in “the consequences”) of the Law in his body, leaving us (our bodies) unscathed. Thus Good Friday signaled the day when the Law’s time was up, and when its deadly consequence and its intended purpose were accomplished. In short, in Jesus the Law met its ends. Furthermore, and this is what makes that news so good, because of Jesus’ glorious triumph over the Law, a new and bright future shines on us called eternal life.

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – Basking in Glory
When we look at Jesus we see God’s greater glory beaming at us–and not just at us, but in us; that is why Paul calls Christ’s glory a reflected glory: “the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror” (3:18). The glory of Christ is not only reflected on us, it also transforms the way we see the world: “When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (3:16). Seeing Christ with unveiled faces, we go from one degree of glory (the Law) to another (the Gospel). In Jesus we see, for the first time, the glory of the Law unveiled; we see the “death” and “condemnation” which would have been ours had Jesus not intervened. Simultaneously, we see the greater glory: the life and justification in Christ that replaces the Law. Thus, when we see God’s glory in Jesus, we see a merciful God. We feel the glow of his pleasure, and reflect it back. It’s like the flashes of pride a parent beams across the room at the child. “‘Atta girl! You’re really something! You just tickle me pink!” Again, the child instantly understands. But this time the parent “lights up her life,” and she is aglow with joy; she snaps into action, she sings, she dances, she radiates the love she has received. So we glow with God’s love for us in Jesus.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – Mirroring Glory
The glow of our faith is reflected (as in a mirror) in many directions, both to God and to the people around us. And it results in what Paul called the “ministry of justification” (3:9, the opposite of the Law’s ministry of condemnation). Here are some of the characteristic of that ministry: “We act with great boldness” (3:12); we are made competent to be ministers of God’s new covenant (3:6); we know true freedom in Christ (3:17); and we are honest and open about who it is we preach (4:2). In short, the ministry of justification “gives life” (v. 6).


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