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Show me your glory

Sermon passage: (John 1:14-18) Spoken on: December 24, 2017
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: John

Tags: John 约翰福音

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About Rev. Wong Siow Hwee: Rev. Wong is currently serving as a pastor in the children and young family ministries, as well as the LED and worship ministries.

Title: Show me your glory
Date: 24th Dec 2017
Preacher: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee

From this period of Advent this year until Easter Sunday next year, we will be looking through the Jesus event from John’s perspective. The Jesus event begins with Christmas, the coming of Christ. John described Christmas in his own unique way: 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John also highlighted the significance of this event: We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. Simply put, when the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, it enabled us to see the glory of the Father. We witnessed in a physical manner the heavenly Father who is full of grace and truth. Brothers and sisters, I don’t know about you, but I need this. I need to feel grace and truth close to me in a concrete way. And if you tell me that the Father is so full of grace and truth, then I want to feel the Father close to me. I want to feel this grace and truth. I know I’m not alone in this because many have asked me the same question: Where is God? In a world of sin and suffering, we want to feel grace. In a world with liars and fake news, we want to feel the truth. Where is God in our world? You want to see God? You want to feel God? And John answers this clearly: 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. If you have ever yearned to see God, then this is the answer from John: Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God fully revealed. Where is God? Where is God? God is revealed in Jesus Christ.

Is this revelation a big deal? Yes it is! This is precisely the meaning of Christmas. After Christmas for more than 2000 years, we might have taken the coming of Christ, this full revelation of God for granted. But tonight, I want to re-emphasize this significance once again. Christmas is not about Christmas trees or Santa Claus or even about holidays and presents. Christmas is about God fully revealed. Christmas is about God witnessed in all his grace and truth, in all his glory. And the best way to do this is to show you the effects of the before and after. You know what before and after? This is the before and after pictures of Obama from 8 years as the American president. Looking at the before and after effects tells you that something has surely happened. You know something happened because you can see the transformation. You know there is a story right there. What about the before and after of Christmas, the coming of Christ? John presents the before and after effect in this way: 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. That is the before and after of the coming of Jesus Christ. At first glance, you might think of this as a contrast, as if grace and truth is the opposite of Law. Moses gave the Law and Jesus gave us grace and truth, and it appears as though Moses and Jesus are giving us two opposite things. But that’s not true. This is actually poetic parallelism. John is comparing them to show us how similar they are. The Law reveals who God is, and what he desires in his creation. And if the Law is obeyed and practiced right, you will see a community with God living amongst them. And you will see that indeed, God is full of grace and truth, just as John said. So, both Jesus and Moses actually serve the same function of revealing God to us. The Law is also about grace and truth. The Law will transform God’s people into a community of God’s love. (We did all that when we went through Deuteronomy in 2013. [1]) So instead of a contrast, it is actually more of a continuation. Jesus continued Moses’ ministry of revealing God. But if this is a continuation, then is there any before and after effects. Or is there no difference because the before and the after remains the same? First, tonight, I want to show you what was it like before, in the very first revelation in Moses time.

If I were to pick a beginning, I would say it began in Exodus 33: 18 Then Moses said (to God), “Now show me your glory.” The first revelation began with a special request from Moses. “Show me your glory.” What is it that Moses wanted to see? “Show me your glory.” Keep in mind that Moses had already seen the burning bush in Exodus 3. And in the 30 chapters from 3 to 33, Moses had been in constant direct communication with God. I would even argue that both in quantity and quality, Moses had probably seen and spoken more with God then anyone before him. Yet I think this time, the desire is even greater. Moses want the full revelation of God, in all his glory. Why? Maybe it had to do with the golden calf incident that happened right before this special request. The worship of the golden calfs idols made God furious. In God’s anger, he said he would destroy everyone and just start all over again and make a nation out of Moses. But Moses pleaded and God relented. In God’s anger, he said he will no longer travel with the people, and just let an angel take his place to lead the people to the Promised Land. But Moses pleaded again and God relented. Eventually, God promised that his Presence will be with the people as they journey on. And this is the precise moment Moses requested for more, to finally see God in full. “Show me your glory.” Why? My guess is, in that vulnerable moment of truth, he needed that assurance of seeing for himself who God is. Because who God is, so will his actions be.

And then God fully revealed himself.
Exodus 33: 19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
Exodus 34: 5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

The Bible does not record what exactly did Moses see when the glory of God passed him by. Maybe it is indescribable, like staring at the sun, even if it was just the back of God. But the Bible recorded who God is: grace and truth. That is the assurance and the glory that Moses was asking for. Because who God is, so will his actions be. From that moment of revelation, Moses knew that God will journey on with his people, no matter how stiff-necked the people may be. And with God’s goodness, compassion and grace, he need not be afraid. This was revealed also to us in God’s name. We are protected from whatever would overwhelm us as human beings. [2]

This was the Before, in the first full revelation of God. Because who God is, so will his actions be. And from that revelation, it is then transformed into words of covenant. In Exodus 33: 10 Then the Lord said: “I am making a covenant with you. 27 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.

This is what John meant in John 1 by “17 For the law was given through Moses”. The Law signified the covenant with God. And the covenant signified God’s presence with his people to the Promised Land. Because who God is, so will his actions be. When Moses asked God to show him his glory, God revealed himself to Moses. Was it glorious? Yes it was. The name of God and the Law kept God’s people alive for more than a thousand years. That was before. It was so glorious people needed a veil to look at Moses. That was before. But now, I want to talk about what is after. And the before and after difference is best described by Paul.

2 Corinthians 3: 7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
Paul is comparing the before and after. It was glorious before with Moses, but in comparison with the glory that comes from Jesus, it was far greater in glory after. And the veil becomes a sign of this difference. Paul continued:
13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the Ten Commandments in his hands, his face was shining with God’s glory. The people were afraid to come near him because of their sinfulness. They would surely die in the presence of God’s glory. So, Moses had to veil his face to hide God’s glory. This was how the old covenant works. People were not able to come face to face with God. Their mediator was Moses and even with him, they were not able to face him directly. They were unable to experience the full extent of God’s grace. The veil had two effects. Firstly, it allowed the Israelites to experience God’s glory and grace in its limited form. Secondly, the veil also covered their hearts and prevented them from truly transforming into God’s holy people.” [3]

In short, the before and after effects of Christmas, the coming of Christ, is just like the veil taken away. And we can see the glory of God in all its fullness. We see it through Jesus Christ. But unlike what was before with the Israelites, we are not afraid. And that’s because in Jesus Christ, the medium of revelation is also the medium of forgiveness. And this is how Paul described this transformation from before to after:
2 Corinthians 3: 12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Brothers and sisters, this is what we are doing tonight: contemplating the Lord’s glory. When Moses asked God: Show me your glory, he speaks for all of us. God showed his glory. God spoke the words that became the covenant. It was glorious. But perhaps, as humans we still yearn for something more. We do not want to be hiding behind the veil. We want the intimacy that comes from within the veil. In the end, the Law is just words, it is still not grace and truth in fleshly form. What would it be like when God walks amongst us in all his glory?

Tonight is the last day of Advent, but it is only the beginning of the Gospel. From now till Easter, we shall see God’s glory manifested in the words and deeds of Jesus. You will see the 7 signs: "the first of the signs": Changing water into wine at Cana (John 2:1-11). He revealed: I am the true vine. Healing the royal official's son in Capernaum (John 4:46-54). He revealed: I am the gate. Healing the paralytic at Bethesda (John 5:1-15). He revealed: I am the good shepherd. Feeding the 5000 (John 6:5-14). He revealed: I am the bread of life. Jesus walking on water (John 6:16-24). He revealed: I am the truth the life and the way. Healing the man blind from birth (John 9:1-7). He revealed: I am the light of the world. And lastly, the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45). He revealed: I am the resurrection and the life. And in each and every sign, you will see the glory of God. After everything, you will see God. How glorious it will be.

Brothers and sisters, as I wrote these words, an Elder texted me a message: 要把主的话实际的带出来,只有愿意陪伴生命,才能影响生命.
That’s so true and so full of grace. John 1: 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. When Jesus lived his life amongst men, and before us, we finally see God fully. And we are so blessed. Because who God is, so will his actions be. In this coming year, let’s continue to live our lives with Jesus, for that’s what he revealed for us to do.
Let’s pray.

[2]John Goldingay, Exodus and Leviticus for Everyone, p. 122