Hiding the Gospel

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

Transfiguration of Our Lord
February 19, 2023

Scripture readings: 2nd Peter 1:16-21 and Matthew 17:1-9

If something is easy to see, then everyone can see it.  If something is difficult to see, then everyone is forced to look for it; sometimes they don’t even try because it’s too hard.  They might trust someone else to find it for them and give a report.  That’s not necessarily lazy, but it can be a little disappointing. 

The solution is to make it easy to see.  Then everyone can do it for themselves.  I am talking about the Gospel.

Living the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most obvious way to make it easy for folks to see.  If people see you truly living the words of your Savior, if they see you taking His wonderful words of love and compassion seriously, if they see you encouraging others to come into an equally encouraging community of faith and love, then the Gospel is easy to see.

So why do we make it so hard to see?

Sometimes…why are we downright invisible with our faith?

We are called upon by Christ himself to be obvious Christians.  We have been saved, we understand much of that salvation – or we at least work to understand it – and we have a duty to share it with the world.  But often we fail to do so effectively and thus hide the Gospel from others.

But we are not Elijah!  Elijah’s knowledge of God, love of God, and obedience to God was obvious even to non-believers.  Every story we have of Elijah in the Bible points to someone that any of us could find and point out in a big crowd if we had been present in that day.  He did so many amazing things, wonderful things, obvious things.  Even when he died, he didn’t actually die.  He was taken up into Heaven by a flaming chariot and a team of horses that took him up in a whirlwind.  His replacement and protégé, Elisha, saw it all.  Then, just to make sure that Elijah’s “obvious-ness” continued, his mantle fell to earth, and Elisha picked it up.  It was so powerful that when Elisha touched the river with it, the water parted and allowed Elisha to cross.  When the group of 50 prophets saw Elisha with Elijah’s mantle, they immediately knew that Elisha was the obvious successor.  So, the work of the Lord continued.

But we’re not Elijah.  We’re not Elisha either.  We don’t have a mantle.  But we DO have the Gospel of Jesus Christ as our mantle.

We’re not Peter either.  Neither are we those often-confused folks at the various churches he spoke to.  But we have the words of Peter that were sent to them.  In them, Peter makes the case for the Gospel being open to all – and especially believable to all –  so that everyone has the opportunity to hear, learn, and believe that Gospel.  They also had Peter, who was a persuasive, stubborn, often bumbling Gospel witness.  But Peter points out a problem with relying on just words.  Peter often battled the influence of heretics who would distort the Gospel message so badly that the people had difficulty believing the actual Gospel when they heard it. So, everyone may have the opportunity to see, hear, and believe the Gospel, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work.  

One time, Peter’s fellow evangelist, Paul, wrote, “Woe to me if I don’t preach the Gospel!”  Perhaps this week we should hear, “Woe to me if I preach the Gospel is such a way that it is hidden from understanding!”

Apostolic witness is an inherent part of the Gospel; we MUST make it easy for others to see within us!  If we preach it from a pulpit or with our own mouths or with our personal example as we live our lives, we are always and constantly called to witness that Gospel to others.  No one gets a pass.

We are not Peter or James or John either.  They were chosen to be witnesses to an incredible sight: their teacher, Jesus, transfigured into something that was so obvious and so wonderful that he was actually hard to see.  They saw him standing and speaking with the two most important figures from the Old Testament: Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets.  They saw this incredible sight, and it freaked them out so much they were terrified and didn’t know what to do.  Peter seemed to babble he was so blown away by what he saw.

It was obvious to them.  They saw the living, breathing Gospel manifested right in front of them.  It was very, VERY obvious.  

And I’ll bet that picture of Jesus stayed in their hearts for the rest of their lives.  And I’ll bet Peter, James, and John told that story many MANY times.  It didn’t stay hidden.  Even Jesus told them not to tell what they had seen until AFTER “the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”  Once that was done, once they saw Jesus alive again, once they understood what they had seen, their own personal Gospel became very VERY obvious!

But we are who we are.  We are here now in a world that is in desperate need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are here now with the stories of Elijah and Elisha and Peter and Paul and James and John – and lots of other stories of the love of God.  We are here now with the stories of our own faith and the faith of those who taught us to live it.  We are here now in this beautiful place facing a future that is never secure, never guaranteed, never totally free of stress and worry.  We are here now, and we KNOW what we must do.  

We MUST share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives, in what we say, in how we live, in what we believe, and especially in the way we show the world that Gospel.  We MUST share that Gospel in an obvious way.  We don’t have to be Elijah or Elisha or Paul or Peter, James, or John.  We can just be ourselves.

But HIS Gospel, that individual version that he has placed upon our hearts and our minds, must never be hidden in us!