Thomas Torrance writes, “God is not one thing in Christ and another thing in himself. He has not shown us one face in Jesus Christ but kept his real face hidden from us”. In Jesus, the Lord himself makes his own face shine upon us; he lifts up his countenance upon us, and gives us peace.
Jesus really is the open face of God turned towards us. However, the god of this world has blinded our minds to keep us from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. And so, we cannot even begin to see the beauty of God’s glory in the face of his Son. Nevertheless, the God who said “let light shine out of darkness” has shone his light into our hearts by his Spirit so that we can now see the glory of God in the face of Jesus.
“That is the heart of my hopes by day and my dreams by night. To behold the face of Jesus seems to me the one thing to be desired” (George MacDonald). Sharing this desire, we gather together around Jesus to gaze on the glorious beauty of his face by his Spirit. As we do so, his Spirit transforms us into Jesus’ likeness together so that we become his beautiful community of joyful self-giving love. And we reflect his beauty to one another and to the world.
Thank you Father for showing us the beauty of your face in Jesus. May your Spirit continually transform us into the likeness of your own Son as we gaze on his beauty within your own community of joyful self-giving love.
When people hear the word God they may think of a Perfect Being who is remote and removed from the messy world in which we live our messy lives. This God is the Supreme Being who has no personal face to show us.
Baxter Kruger says that people paint a face onto this faceless deity themselves out of their own pain or guilt or shame or fear. The face that you paint onto this distant deity may well be mean and menacing. A frowning face that is always down on you and judging you. When things go wrong in your life you may feel that this frowning deity is punishing you in some way because you don’t measure up to his demands. When things are going well you may feel you have to perform well in order to keep this menacing deity happy.
Jesus is the true Face of God. Thomas Torrance says, “When we look into the face of Jesus Christ and see there the very face of God, we know we have not seen and cannot see God anywhere else or in another way but in him, for he is God himself become human, and there is no God except the God who has come and meets us in Jesus”
We don’t paint the face of God onto a faceless deity out of our own darkness. The face of God himself has turned towards us in the human face of Jesus. That face is not ugly. It is THE beautiful face. For in the face of Jesus we see the free expression of God’s loving-kindness towards us. And that is beauty surpassing all other beauty.
Do we really see Jesus as God entering fully into the human situation as a human with humans? Or do we rather see him as a human who somehow floats over the human situation?
The Jesus we meet in his story is God for us in complete solidarity with those at odds against himself. He exposed himself to human temptation, suffering and death. He was genuinely tempted so that he faced the real and dreadful possibility of unfaithfulness towards his Father. He became our brother threatened with us, harassed and assaulted with us. As the writer to Hebrews says, “He learned obedience”. He did not commit sin, but he was not immune from it.
God as human was fully with us moving with us towards death. With us He cries “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He bore our need as his own, he took it upon himself and cried with us in our need. Indeed, he knew far better than any other how much reason there is to cry.
We say that God became human and we must have no reservations at all about his total identification with us. Only then do we see the sheer wonder of our God. He is not some distant deity above and beyond us in splendid isolation. He is not some detached divine being who is remote and removed from us. He is rather the God who identifies fully with us by becoming one of us and one with us.
In our world people are usually glorified as the move upward to stand out above all the rest. In contrast to this, the God of majesty was glorified as he moved downward to the very lowest place for us. In Jesus, God descended into our desperate situation, by making it his own situation. He drew near to us identifying himself with us/giving himself fully and freely as the God of needy and unworthy people. And he moved downward to where we are with the aim of lifting us up to where he is in God/with his Father.
In this downward movement we see God’s majestic splendour and beauty in the form of humiliation. Karl Barth says, “In Jesus, the Almighty exists and acts and speaks in the form of One who is weak and impotent, the eternal as One who is temporal and perishing, the Most High in the deepest humility. The Holy One stands in the place and under the accusation of a sinner with other sinners. The glorious One is covered with shame. The One who lives for ever has fallen a prey to death. The Creator is subjected to and overcome by the onslaught of that which is not. In short, the Lord is a servant, a slave.”
God is glorified in this humiliation and his Spirit is given to us to glorify him in our hearts. The Spirit glorifies him as the exalted one, but also as the humiliated one. For he is always the Lord as Servant in humiliation and the Servant as Lord in exaltation.