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Lifting the Veil

February 22, 2015


By John Partridge

Scripture: 2 Kings 2:1-12

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Mark 9:2-9

Have you ever kept a secret?


We all know that secrets are enticing. They can be hard to keep and when we know someone has one, a part of
us feels like we need to know what it is. In books, television and the movies, secrets are regularly used to stir
our curiosity and keep us interested until the end. Some organizations have hidden pieces or secrets that only
initiated members know, secret handshakes, secret passwords, secret codes and other things so that members
feel included and special. But for centuries, one of the things that have been a symbol of something secret has
been the veil.
You know what I mean.
A bride on her wedding day is hidden behind a veil so that the groom cannot see her face clearly until after he
has said I do. In the stories of the patriarchs of the Old Testament, we remember that Jacob got married,
after he got married, he consummated the marriage, and only the next morning did he discover that he had
married the wrong sister. He had married Leah instead of Rachael. The only two possibilities that I have heard
have been that either he was really drunk after the reception, or that she had been hidden from him by a veil
until after they were in their tent and it was too dark to see clearly.
When Rebekah met Isaac she put on a veil to hide her face from him until they were married.
When Moses spoke with God his face glowed so much that it frightened the people of Israel and they asked
him to wear a veil to hide Gods glory from them.
In the Song of Solomon, the woman that Solomon loves wears a veil until they are together, and in
Lamentations, Solomon prays that God would put a veil over the hearts of his enemies so that they could not
find their way back to God.
In the New Testament, we know that the Holy of Holies, the most holy place in the Temple, was hidden from
the people by a veil that hung in from the ceiling. But at the moment of Jesus death on the cross, the veil is
torn in two from top to bottom.
A veil has always been a mystery or something that separates us from a secret but the priests and the prophets
were the people who understood the mysteries and who could look past or see through the veil. We see this
clearly in 2 Kings 2:1-12, as the prophet Elijah is called home by God and Elisha takes over his earthly
ministry.
2:1

When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way
from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel.
But Elisha said, As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you. So they went down to
Bethel.
3

The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, Do you know that the LORD is going to
take your master from you today?
Yes, I know, Elisha replied, so be quiet.
4

Then Elijah said to him, Stay here, Elisha; the LORD has sent me to Jericho.

And he replied, As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you. So they went to Jericho.
1

The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, Do you know that the LORD is
going to take your master from you today?
Yes, I know, he replied, so be quiet.
6

Then Elijah said to him, Stay here; the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.

And he replied, As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you. So the two of them walked
on.
7

Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and
Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water
divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
9

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?

Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit, Elisha replied.


10

You have asked a difficult thing, Elijah said, yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours
otherwise, it will not.
11

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and
separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, My
father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel! And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of
his garment and tore it in two.
Throughout the story, Elijah knows that God is calling him. Elisha knows that God will take Elijah away from
him and the prophets at Bethel and Jericho know that its going to happen as well. For most people, the future
is veiled. It is a secret and a mystery, but these prophets of God were able to see through the veil, at least a
little. Elisha knew what was going to happen. He understood the mystery, at least a little bit, of what was
about to happen.
But the disciples of Jesus seem to be famously clueless.
Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus trying to tell them something, and they just dont get it. And this is
exactly what we see when we read the story of the transfiguration of Jesus in Mark 9:2-9.
2

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were
all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in
the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5

Peter said to Jesus, Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three sheltersone for you, one for
Moses and one for Elijah. 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: This is my Son, whom I love.
Listen to him!
8

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until
the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what rising from the
dead meant.
Peter, James and John walk with Jesus up a mountain, see him transfigured into his divine form, meet Elijah
and Moses, listen to them talk with Jesus, and hear God speak from heaven. But when Jesus tells them not to
talk about it until he rises from the dead, they have absolutely no clue what he is talking about. Even when
Jesus told them what was going to happen, the future was veiled from them and they could neither see it, nor
understand it. Perhaps they were just dense but it might also be that God was deliberately keeping them from
understanding this mystery until the proper time.
In 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Paul explains how the rest of us fit into this system of mystery as we take part in the
ministry of God in the world
Therefore, since through Gods mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced
secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by
setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyones conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if
our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of
unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of
God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus
sake. 6 For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the
light of the knowledge of Gods glory displayed in the face of Christ.
Paul says that our job is simply to tell the truth about what we know. We are not to lie or to use deceptive sales
tactics to spread the message of the good news of Jesus Christ. We are simply to tell the truth in a plain and
understandable way so that people can hear and understand. Paul warns us though, that there are those people
who no matter how clearly and how plainly we tell them, that will simply not get it. For some people, the
truth is veiled. It may be that they are so entangled with the enemy of our souls that they can no longer see the
truth. They have heard, and have bought into, so many of the lies of the enemy that the truth can no longer
penetrate their minds or hearts. There are others who are simply so stubborn or hard-hearted, that they cannot
hear and others who are so selfish and inwardly focused that they refuse to hear any message that declares that
the center of the universe is anywhere but where they are.
Pauls message is that we should not take it personally when these people cannot hear or respond to Christs
message of rescue. Their rejection is not a rejection of you or me, because the message that we share is not a
message about you or me, it is a message about Jesus Christ. We are like the prophets in the story of Elijah and
Elisha. We have been given a vision of the truth. We can see what others cannot always see. But we will meet
the people who cannot see. Some are like the people of Israel who do not want to see the glory of God and beg
for a veil to hide it away from them. Others are like Peter, James and John who, even though they walked with
Jesus, could not see or understand the truth even when it was right in front of them. But remember that these
apostles were not always so dense. There came a time when the veil was removed, when their eyes were
opened, and they saw and understood the truth. Our mission is not to be successful, God will give us success
as he see fit.
Our mission is simply to tell the truth in plain language so that others might hear.
Our mission is to shine a light into the darkness so that others might see.
Our prayer is that God will use us to rescue those who are lost.
3

You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first
page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part
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New International Version unless otherwise noted.