You Look Different
Text: Exodus 34:29-35
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
There are a whole lot of positives to being in a large family. There’s never a lack of someone to talk to or play with. There’s always someone around to help out when something needs to be done. Basketball games don’t always have to be 1×1. But there are a few downsides as well. There’s the possibility that all the individuals get lumped in with the group and any one person doesn’t get to express their individuality. Probably the biggest downside to avoid is the possibility of getting lost in the crowd. Sometimes that might be a good thing, like when it’s easier to get away with stuff as it becomes harder and harder to tell who’s responsible for what. But there are also times when one person can just kind of fade into the background. One of the things we’ve started to do in our house when someone seems to be getting lost in the crowd is to say, “We want to see your bright, shining face.” It usually brightens the mood and generally elicits a smiling, shining face.
I couldn’t help but think of that in reading today’s Old Testament lesson from Exodus. While we might be able to encourage a shining face in our child, or neighbor, through an encouraging word, it certainly doesn’t compare to the shining face those around Moses experienced every time He came in contact with God. The glory of the Lord physically and visibly would show through Moses’ face after He would talk with God. A direct encounter with the Lord changes Him and I know it does the same for us. Our interactions with God make us look different too. People should be able to look at us, as Christians and say to us,
YOU LOOK DIFFERENT.
For Moses it started when he “came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand,” and “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” Moses, who lived 1,500 years before Christ came into the world as a man, receives the light of Christ and is changed because of it. As he came down from the mountain his appearance was so striking it caused Aaron and all the people of Israel to be afraid to come near him. Perhaps they didn’t even recognize him at first. He looked so different. Or perhaps the reflection of God’s glory was so intense that they couldn’t look at it for long without having to look away Like driving westward into the setting sun. “But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregations returned to him, and Moses talked with them.” What did he say? All it took was for him to let them know that the Lord had spoken to him on the mountain and then it began to make sense to them.
But even in their understanding it appears the shining face of Moses may have been too much for them to take. This is one reason that Moses may have covered his face with a veil. Another reason for the veil seems to have been so that Moses’ speaking with God-given authority would not be diminished as the glow of his face would lose some of its luster over time. When this would begin to happen, Moses would remove the veil and go before the Lord to speak with Him. When he would return the people would again see his face shining. The text indicates that this cycle would happen over and over again with Moses entering into the glory of the Lord and then reflecting that glory to the people in his shining face. This is just one of the ways we’re reminded that Christ’s light shines, but God must veil His glory so that people aren’t blinded.
It happens on the Mount of Transfiguration as well. Jesus invites His inner circle to experience the full glory that until that time had been veiled in human flesh. It’s such an overwhelming experience that Peter wants to dwell there forever. Mark’s text tells us that he wants to set up three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. This is one of those texts that does get a little bit lost in translation. The word for tent here is tabernacle, like the Old Testament tabernacle. The one Moses would have gone into to speak with the Lord. And what tabernacle actually means is to dwell. The Old Testament tabernacle was the dwelling place of the Lord on earth. What Peter really wanted to do was to tabernacle, or dwell, right there. So that the experience wouldn’t end.
Like Moses’ encounter with the living God that made his face shine so brightly, this experience with Jesus’ transfiguration would have done the same for the disciples, except that Jesus commands that it remain veiled “until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Well, the Son of Man has risen from the dead. And Peter preached that Good News on Pentecost and 3,000 were baptized and added to their number on that day. We can’t attribute that Gospel success to anything other than the fact that there was something different about the preacher who had seen the glory of the Lord and now was free to share it with anyone and everyone. On that day the world began to say of those who worshipped the risen Lord, “You look different,” and “I want some of that.”
This is how it should be with all Christians. Through our baptisms, the Word of God dwelling richly in us, and the work of the Holy Spirit we have been changed. We’ve been transformed. We’ve seen the glory of the Lord. We’ve talked with Him. He dwells in us. And because of all of that, we should look different. Our lives should look different than those who haven’t seen and heard. Our lives should reflect the faith that we have been gifted with. Paul says to the Corinthians, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord.” Our unveiled faces, shining the glory of the Lord, should show the world that there’s something different about us. A consistency of belief and behavior. A purity and self-control that’s only possible as the Spirit works within us. A composure that shows gentleness and respect to those around us. Relationships that reflect the lovingkindness God has first shown to us. A truthfulness in word and deed that doesn’t lead others astray, but boldly proclaims the message of the Gospel.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. The distinction between Christians and the world should be crystal clear. Not because we’re somehow better people. In fact, we’re inherently no different than anyone else. Our hearts would love to march to the same self-absorbed cadence that drives the rest of the world. Sinfulness abounds in many ways. But there is one difference. One huge, striking, shining difference. It’s Jesus. And what a difference He makes. The glory He showed the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. The glory that rubbed off on Moses, causing His face to shine. That glory was fully revealed. Not in a shining light in the sky. But in a humble walk to the cross. Jesus’ full glory is on display in His crucifixion. A glory that no one else could ever generate. And it’s a glory that changes us who know why He did it. Why He had to die. And what His death and resurrection means for us. A glory that now reflects through you. And because of it, you are to look different. Act different. Live different.
Until the Son of Man had been raised from the dead, the glory of the Lord had to be veiled to a certain degree. Hidden and revealed at the same time. But now, we are free to reflect His glory in all the ways we can. To as many people as we possibly can. Looking different from the rest of the world allows us this opportunity. Just as I encourage my kids not to get lost in the crowd by telling them I want to see their shining faces, I say the same to you. Don’t blend in. Don’t get lost in the crowd. The world needs to see your shining faces. Faces shining with the reflection of the glory of Christ who lives in you. And when you feel like that glory is fading, do as Moses did and return to the Lord to be recharged. Dwell in His house. Hear His Word. Let the Spirit work in you. And receive His gifts in Word and Sacrament. All these things restore exactly what we all need. And when those around you says to you, “You look different,” take it as a compliment that God’s glory shines through you. And take the opportunity to share with them what makes you different, and how they too can shine. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.