I want to start with a little memory teaser for all the married men here today. We’ve got Valentine’s Day just around the corner, so here’s my question: On your wedding day, when your bride came walking down the aisle, was she wearing a veil? I mean the kind that covered her face, a veil that had to be lifted off at some point? Now, you realize, your wife may be more than a little interested in how you answer that question. Will you pass this test? Do you remember what she was wearing? I have to admit, I already flunked this test. I had to ask my wife, “Sarah, were you wearing a veil on our wedding day?” This all came up as part of discussion about our daughter’s wedding: was she going to wear a veil, was it going to be one tier or two, was it going to be a blusher or fingertip length or cathedral style (you know, all the things that a father of the bride needs to know.)
So what does all this talk of veils have to do with our text for today? Actually, quite a bit. Did you notice that two of our three readings talked about a veil. Not a veil worn not by a bride, but rather a veil worn by the Prophet Moses. Scripture tells us that when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai after receiving the 10 Commandments from the Lord himself, Moses face was radiant; it was shining brightly. His face was a reflection of the glory of God, in whose presence Moses had just been. And in a sense, his face was a reflection of the glory contained in the Law, which God had just received from God.
And yet, over the course of time, the radiance in Moses’ face began to fade. And when it did, Moses used a veil to cover up his face, so that the Children of Israel would not see that the glory was fading. Whenever Moses went back into the presence of God, he would take off the veil and his face would, in effect, become recharged again. He would come out and speak to the people and again his face would shine. And when the glory began to fade, he again covered up with a veil.
Now, in our text for today, the Apostle Paul refers to that event in Moses life and says in effect, “Moses wasn’t the only one wearing a veil. So were a lot of the Israelites. Only the veils they were wearing were not covering their faces. They were covering their hearts.” In fact, Paul goes on to say that it wasn’t just the Jews back in Moses’ day who were wearing veils over their hearts. So were the Jews in Paul’s day. In fact, so are a lot of people to this day. In fact, that brings us to the question that God’s Word asks us today, namely, Christian,
Are You Wearing a Veil?
In this section of Scripture, the Apostle Paul draws a contrast. He says,
- With a veil, our vision is blurred
- Without a veil, God’s glory is revealed
First, with a veil, our vision is blurred. Isn’t that true, to a certain extent? If you’ve ever bow hunted with mosquito netting over your face, you know it’s just a little tougher to see. Or I think about laying out in my layout blind with the mesh pulled up over my head, looking through all those little holes trying to figure out if that is a duck at 40 yards or a mosquito at 4 inches. When you have a veil over your face, your vision is a little blurred. In fact, I sometimes wonder if that’s how uncle Laban got Jacob to marry Leah instead of Rachel. Did her put a veil over her face so that Jacob couldn’t quite see who he was saying “I do” to? Sometimes a veil can make the truth a little hard to see.
Now take that concept and apply it to what Paul is talking about in our text. Paul has already talked about how Moses used a veil to prevent the Israelites from seeing that the truth that his glory was fading. But then Paul goes on to draw some parallels between the Israelites then and the Israelites in Paul’s day. Paul writes, But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. And again, Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.
Hmmm. What does that mean, “When the old covenant is read” or “when Moses is read”? Paul is talking about the Old Testament Scriptures. He’s saying, “When the Law of Moses was read in the Jewish synagogue, a veil covers the hearts of the Jews. In other words, they didn’t see clearly what the Law of Moses was really saying. You see, they thought that the Law of Moses was their ticket to eternal life. All they had to do was follow the 10 commandments, obey the laws of Moses, be circumcised, worship on the Sabbath Day, love your neighbor as yourself. You see, for many of the Jews, the law was their glory. It’s what set them apart. It’s what made them better than everyone else.
My friends, you realize, it’s not just the Jews who think that way. There are a lot of people who think that way, including some people sitting in Christian churches. How many people today think that their standing with God is based on how well they “obey the rules”? If they keep the 10 Commandments, if they live by the golden rule, if they put their religion into practice, they assume that God will have to be pleased with them. In effect their glory is in what they’ve done. They look at God’s Law and say, “Well, I’ve kept that. That’s my ticket into heaven.”
You realize, that kind of thinking is not just out there somewhere. There’s a voice inside of every one of us that says, “Well, I’m not that bad a person. I mean, I don’t do drugs. I’ve never been unfaithful to my spouse. I try to help people whenever I can. I know the 10 Commandments by heart. I live my life according to them. C’mon. That’s got to be good for something. Don’t I get a little credit for trying my best?
My friends, you realize whenever something like that is said or thought, it’s evidence that there is still a veil over our hearts. We’re just not seeing things clearly. We’re not seeing what the law really says. Remember, God’s law doesn’t say, “Try your best.” It doesn’t say, “Be better than the rest.” It doesn’t say, “Give it your best shot.” No, what does the Law say? How good must we be to earn a passing grade with God? God says it himself, “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) Or as Jesus puts it in the New Testament, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48). St James fleshes that out when he writes, For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10) Do you realize what that means? It means that anyone who tries to hang his hat on the Law, anyone who thinks the Ten Commandments will be his claim to fame, still has a veil over his heart. He is still blind to the truth.
So, is there any hope for people who are currently wearing a veil? Is there any way for the veil to be lifted? Any way for it to be taken away? Actually, there is. Paul explains it here in our text, when he writes, only in Christ is it (namely, the veil) taken away. And again, But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Do you hear what Paul is saying? He’s saying that only in Christ, do things start to clear up for us. When the Holy Spirit leads us into God’s Word, he allows us to see things that way that God sees them. First, he allows us to see what we look like in comparison to the Law. When we compare ourselves to God’s standard of perfection, we see what God says is the truth, namely, There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23). And again “There is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10).
In other words, when God the Holy Spirit removes the veil over our hearts, we get a clear view of what we really look like. In the mirror of God’s law, the view is clear—but it ain’t pretty. We see a sinner in love with himself or herself. A sinner who can’t say no to the cravings of his own flesh, a sinner who is embarrassed by his thoughts, words and deeds.
But you see, when the Holy Spirit lifts the veil, he allows us to see not only what we look like in the mirror of the law. More importantly, he allows us to see what we really look like—in Christ. For you see, in the Gospel we get to see how God sees us in Christ. And how does God see us in Christ? He sees us sinners now washed in the blood of the Lamb. He sees us as people who are now wearing the white robes of Jesus’ righteousness. He sees the beautiful, radiant bride of Christ. Isn’t that what St. Paul says in Ephesians 5? Christ loved the church (who’s the church? The church is you, dear Christians. So let’s start that verse again.) Christ loved [you] and gave himself up for [you] to make [you] holy, cleansing [you] by the washing with water through the word, (cleansing you with the water of Holy Baptism, to do what?) to present [you] to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Think about that a minute. This is what Jesus has done for you. Jesus pledged is life to you. He has made you his bride. And when he washed your sins away, he made you the perfect bride. In his eyes, you now have no flaws. In his eyes you are absolutely beautiful. You see, that’s why he lifted the veil from your eyes. Not only so that you could see him more clearly. Not only so you could see how much he loves you. But also so that he could see you more clearly. So he could see how beautiful you are. Isn’t that why a husband lifts the veil of his bride? Because he knows how beautiful she is in his eyes. He wants the whole world to see. Isn’t the same thing true for our bridegroom, Jesus? Jesus has lifted the veil from our eyes. He wants the whole world to see. To see what? He wants the whole world to see that
- Without the veil, we now reflect the glory of God
Isn’t that what Paul says here in our text? And we, with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory. Isn’t that the truth? The beauty that we have in God’s eyes, the glorious radiance we possess, is not something we generated ourselves—any more than Moses made his own face shine when he came down the mountain. No, his glory was a reflected glory. And so is ours. When you and I as Christians, let our light shine, that’s not really our doing. It’s not like we generated our own light. No, we’re merely reflecting the light of Christ. People are seeing the glory of Christ reflected in our faces, and words and actions. Now, is that reflection always a clear one? No, it isn’t. Sometimes, by our sinful actions we, in effect, “get mud on the mirror. We don’t look much like Christ.
But here’s the Good News. God is not done with us yet. He’s still shining us up. He’s still transforming us into the men, women and children who look more and more like Jesus. Isn’t that what St. Paul says here in our text? And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory. We are being “transformed into his likeness.” Paul is talking about God’s work of sanctification. After God declares that we’re holy in his eyes, then he helps us live like the holy people he’s declared us to be. And that is an ongoing process that will not end until the day he calls us home to heaven.
But until that day comes, it’s critical to remember who you are in Christ. You are the bride of Christ. And your beauty, your glory is not found in your ability to live your life according to some moral code. No, Jesus has already lived that moral code in your place. He’s already given you credit for his righteousness. And that righteousness, which Christ has given you, through faith, is what makes you truly beautiful, truly radiant, truly glorious in God’s eyes. Believe it. For then you will know that God has indeed lifted the veil from your eyes. To him be the glory. Amen.