Down through the ages, skilled artists have attempted to capture the face of Jesus either on canvass or in sculpture. Some have depicted Him in great agony; others with great compassion. Lately, “scientists” have attempted to depict the face of Jesus through forensic reconstruction of first century Semite skulls. Ever since 1898, when Secondo Pia made a negative image of the Shroud of Turin, many people have held it to show the face of the Saviour. But if we really want to see the true face of Jesus, we must go to the Bible. For example…
In Luke 9:51-53, we see the face of Jesus as the face of duty. The Bible tells us that Jesus stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). At that time, our Lord’s death was only a mere six months away in that very city. Furthermore, Jesus knew exactly what was going to befall Him there for He warned His disciples in order to prepare them (Matt. 16:21-23, 20:18, 26:2). The Lord, even with this knowledge, went willingly to the city and to the cross (John 10:18). He could have called twelve legions of angels to deliver Himself, but He did not (Matt. 26:53). Though Jesus despised the shame of the cross, He still endured it for the joy that was set before Him (Heb. 12:1,2). How do we face our duty, however unpleasant it may be, as Christians?
In Matthew 17:2, we see in the face of Jesus the face of majesty. The Bible tells us that Jesus was transfigured and that the “fashion of His countenance [was] altered” and His “Face shown as the sun” (Luke 9:29; Matt. 17:2). At the same time, Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke to Jesus of His impending death (Luke 9:30,31). While Peter tried to honor all three, God spoke with resounding clarity that it was His Son alone Who was to be heard (Mark 9:7; Heb. 1:1,2). When Peter later recalled the incident, he said the apostles were “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (II Pet. 1:16-21).
Again, we see in the face of Jesus the face of humanity. In Matt. 26:36-(39)-40, the Bible tells us that as Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemene He fell on His face in solemn, ardent prayer. He prayed to the Father, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” We know of the divinity of Jesus (Matt. 1:23; Phil 2:5ff; Acts 20:28; etc.) but the Bible makes it exceedingly clear that He was also fully human. Paul describes Jesus as praying to God with “strong crying and tears” (Heb. 5:7,8). In these actions, Jesus shows us that He identifies with all our trials and temptations because He, Himself, was human (Heb. 2:14-17, 4:15). “Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee” (Psalm 55:22).
We see in Jesus also the face of rejection. The Bible tells us His enemies “spit in His face” (Matt. 26:67). Jesus suffered every kind of indignity imaginable. They spit upon Him, smacked Him in the face, left Him unclothed, beat and mocked Him. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him (Is. 53). He endured the cross, yes, but He despised the shame (Heb. 12:2). Jesus lived what He taught: “Blessed are ye when ye are persecuted” (Matt. 5:10-12). He suffered for us, leaving us an example (I Pet. 2:21-25).
In Jesus countenance we also see the face of pity. The Bible tells us that Jesus turned and looked upon Peter (Luke 22:61). Peter had earlier affirmed that he would die for the Lord only to be told by the Lord that, on the contrary, that very night he would deny Him thrice. Picture in your mind the “trial” of Jesus. Can you imagine that Jesus and Peter are far apart? There is much going on in the hall. It is full of people. Full of noise. It is unlikely that Jesus could audibly hear what Peter might be saying to any man or maid. But when the cock crew, Jesus turns from His accusers and, knowing just where to look, looks back at Peter across the great hall just after he denied the Lord for the third time (Matt. 26:69-75)! “What a holy power is in this silent glance.”
In the face of the Lord we also see the face of transformational Truth. In the New Testament we behold the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 3:18). While the Jews still had a veil over their eyes, as did Moses when he came down from the mount, and thus have their minds blinded, we have no such veil but with open face behold the glory of the Lord. We are changed into that same image. God shines in our hearts, through His word, to give light in the face of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 4:6).
Three quick final points. We see in Jesus the face of justice. His face is against them that do evil (I Pet. 3:12). It is not that God cannot hear the sinner, but He does not listen with a view to answering their prayers (John 9:31). In the face of Jesus we see the face of judgement. We are told by John that heaven and earth will flee away from the holy face of Jesus Christ as He sits upon the great white throne to judge the world (Rev. 20:11). Finally, we see in Jesus’ face the face of glory. We shall see His face (Rev. 22:4) and when we do we shall be like Him (I John 3:1-3).
Do you want to know what Jesus looks like? Then look into the mirror of God’s word and be changed into the same image as the glory of the Lord and you will have the “light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 3:18-4:6; James 1:25).
Eric L. Padgett