SEEING GOD IN THE FACE OF JESUS CHRIST
... We realise that our goal should be God Himself, but He seems far off, unknowable.
The fact is, God is unknowable, unless there is an easily appreciated revelation of Himself. Apart from that revelation, men have groped for Him in vain and have had to say with Job, "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him! " (Job 23:3). Even the wonders of creation fail to give the revelation of Him that is needed. Of them, Job said, “Lo, these are but the out-skirts of His ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of Him” (Job 26:14 R.V.). Left to themselves, men arrive at a false knowledge of God, a knowledge that only begets fear and bondage, and which repels men rather than draws them to Him.
However, the glorious, central fact of Christianity is that God has made a full and final revelation of Himself which has made Him understandable, accessible, and desirable to the simplest and most fearful of us. He has done so in a Son, through whom He made the worlds and who, having humbled Himself to take on Him our flesh and blood, and by Himself to purge our sins, has sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. And that Son is the Lord Jesus.
The disciples themselves had battled with this difficulty of the unknowableness of God, and one day one of them said to the Lord Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficient for us.” In reply, Jesus uttered the stupendous words “He that has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9). Later in the New Testament we find Paul saying the same thing to the Colossians, “His dear Son ... who is the image of the invisible God.” ... (Col 1:15). And again, to the Corinthians, “God ... has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).
It is this verse about the light of the knowledge of the glory of God being seen in the face of Jesus Christ that helps us most here. Light is invisible unless it shines upon some object. We think we see a ray of sunshine shining into the room. But that is not so. We see only the particles in the air upon which the light shines and which thus reveal the presence of light. “God is light” (1 John 1:5) we read, but He is invisible and unknowable unless He shines upon some object that will reveal Him. The object upon which He has shone is the face of Jesus Christ, and as we look into that face, there shines in our hearts the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, which we can see nowhere else.
In yet other verses the New Testament gives us three beautiful illustrations of the way in which the Lord Jesus is the revelation of the Father. In one place He is called "the Word" (John 1:1), for the word is the expression of the thought. In another He is called "the express image of His Person" (Heb. 1:3), for the wax impress is the exact expression of the seal. And in the same verse He is called "the brightness of His glory", for the brightness of the rays express the sun, and are all that we can see of the sun. Yes, just as the word is the son of the thought, and the wax-impress the son of the seal, and the rays the son of the sun, so Jesus is the Son of God, equal to Him but never independent of Him and perfectly expressing Him to us in terms that we can simply appreciate. And He was all this, not merely at the Incarnation, but before time began, and will ever be so when time has ceased to be. Nowhere else can we fully see God but in the face of Jesus Christ.
In his biography of Martin Luther, D'Aubigné describes how Luther was seeking to know God. He says that “he would have wished to penetrate into the secret councils of God, to unveil His mysteries, to see the invisible and to comprehend the incomprehensible”. Stupitz checked him. He told him not to presume to fathom the hidden God, but to confine himself to what He has manifested to us in Jesus Christ. In Him, God has said, you will find what I am and what I require. Nowhere else, neither in heaven nor in the earth, will you discover it.
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What exactly is it that we see when we look into the face of Jesus Christ? The verse we are considering says we see not only “the light of the knowledge of God", but also the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of jesus Christ”. In Him we see not only God but His glory displayed. This gives us a new understanding of that which makes God glorious—and it comes as both a surprise and a shock. For the face that reveals the glory of God is a marred face, spat upon and disfigured by the malice of men. The prophetic word of Isaiah concerning Him, “His Visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men” (Isa. 53:14) can really be translated “His visage was marred so that it was no longer that of a man”, so great was His disfigurement. But, you say, that is not the vision of glory, but of shame and disgrace! However, it is glory as God counts glory, for the glory of God consists in something other than what we suppose. We are always falling into the mistake of thinking God is “such an one as ourse1ves” (Ps 50:21) and therefore that His glory consists in much the same thing as that in which man’s glory consists, only on a bigger scale. Man’s glory is normally thought to lie in his ability to exalt himself, and humble others to his will. That is glory, that is power, says the world. “Men will praise you when you do well for yourself” (Ps 49:18). How often have we coveted the glory of being able to sit at a desk as a high administrative chief and at the touch of a button command men to do what we want! Glory in man’s eyes is always that which exalts him.
In Jesus, however, we see that God’s glory consists in the very reverse—not so much in His ability to exalt Himself and humble man, but in His willingness to humble Himself for the sake of man—not so much in a mighty display of power that would break in pieces those that oppose Him, but rather in the hiding of that power and the showing of grace to the undeserving when they turn to Him in repentance. When Moses said, “I beseech Thee, show me Your glory”, God replied, “I will make all My goodness pass before you” (Exod 33:18,19). Not, “I will make all My power, My majesty, My holiness pass before you” but “I will make all My goodness to the weak, the sinful, and the undeserving pass before you.” In showing His goodness (grace, as it is called in the New Testament) He was showing His glory. His glory is His grace (Eph 1:6). It is this that makes the angels hide their faces and bow in wondering adoration of God. And it is this glory which is fully seen in the face of Jesus and nowhere else. “In Him most perfectly expressed the Father’s glories shine.”
This was the conception of glory that occupied the Saviour’s mind. On one occasion He said, “The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified” (John 12:23). A few verses farther on He speaks of it as an hour when He would be lifted up and would draw all men to Him (John 12:32). Again and again He had said, “My hour has not yet come.” Now He says, “It is come.” Were we reading all this for the first time, we would surely feel like saying at this point, “Never was the hour of glory and vindication more merited than in His case, for none had walked the path of vilification and opposition more patiently than He!" What is our surprise, then, when we discover that He is speaking, not of being lifted up on a Throne, but on a Tree, as a public spectacle of shame, and all that for rebellious man, that He might save him from the miseries of his sin. “This,” says Jesus in effect, “is the hour of My glory, for it is the hour of My grace to sinners.” In Jesus, then, we see that God’s highest glory consists in His securing our deepest happiness. What a God is this!
How different is this sight of Him from the conception our guilty consciences have given us! A guilty conscience always makes us want to hide from Him, as if He were the God with the big stick! Little wonder, then, that He goes on to say, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, [revealing the glory of God in grace] will draw all men unto Me.” Here is a revelation of God that makes Him not only understandable but also infinitely desirable.
We need to look, then, no farther than the face of Jesus Christ to see God, and to know Him as He really is.
In Him I see the Godhead shine,
Christ for me!
How good of God to simplify our quest like this! We need not be philosophers, nor theologians, nor scholars. We need not—no, we should not—pry any farther. All we need to know of the Father has been revealed in the Lord Jesus with such simplicity that a child can understand ... perhaps with such simplicity that unless we become as little children we will not understand, for so often it is our intellect that gets in the way.
The one cry that we all need to utter is that of the Greeks to Philip, “Sir, we would see Jesus!” for, seeing Him, we see all. and every need of our hearts is met.
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We must now ask ourselves what it actually means to “see Jesus”. Perhaps it will help us to see what it does not mean.
To see Jesus does not mean that we are to seek to see Him in a mystical way, nor to crave for visions. We once heard someone, on being asked if they were seeing Jesus for themselves, reply, “Oh, yes, I am always trying to conjure up pictures of Him in my mind.” Some people are given to visions, but visions are not to be sought after, nor gloried in. Paul was very reticent about what he had seen (2 Cor 12:1-5). The fact of having a vision does not necessarily mean that we know the Lord Jesus more deeply than anyone else—sometimes it can be a hindrance.
Furthermore, we must not imagine that a merely objective contemplation of Christ and His love, or an academic delight in truth, is what is needed. Important as Bible study is, it can be strangely sterile and does not necessarily mean that the student is enjoying a transforming vision of the Lord Jesus Himself—though we shall never get very far without a patient and daily waiting on God over the Scriptures.
To see Jesus is to apprehend Him as the supply of our present needs, and believingly to lay hold on Him as such. The Lord Jesus is always seen through the eye of need. He is presented to us in the Scriptures not for our academic contemplation and delight, but for our desperate need as sinners and weaklings. The acknowledgment of need and the confession of sin, therefore, is ever the first step in seeing Jesus. Then, where there is acknowledged need, the Holy Spirit delights to show to the heart the Lord Jesus as the supply of just that need. Basically He is revealed through the Scriptures, but often in other ways too—through another’s testimony, through the words of a hymn, or through the even more direct approach of the Spirit to the soul without any such means. Then, as the soul believingly appropriates for himself what the Spirit shows of Jesus, striving, strain, a consciousness of guilt, fear, and sorrow flee away and “our mouth is filled with laughter and our tongue with singing “(Psa 126:2).