What Do You See?

by David James

What do you see when you gaze upon him? A man acquainted with sorrow and suffering? One who walked among us and taught another way? A way foreign to us? A way of mercy? A man of virtue and not vice; a holy man; a godly man; the Son of God who united himself with our humanity becoming fully God and fully man; a man fully alive. For it was this very reason he came, that we too might become fully alive. For we were dead in our sins, separated from God who we were created for and left with a futile longing for union with God. Forever restless our hearts remain, apart from God.

So, to us He came. He through whom all things great and small find their existence, who inscribed nature with His perfect order and who knows the intimate details of our hidden thoughts and desires. Abandoning his glory, He veiled himself in human flesh to walk among us, teach us, heal us, forgive us, challenge us and lead us on a narrow path towards heaven to be with God for all eternity. How our souls long for this and yet how unaware of this are we? His gaze, his words, his deeds cut through and penetrate our hearts. They bring conflict to our minds revealing our sinfulness and God’s holiness; revealing two paths we can take: one well paved and familiar we’ve already been traveling on which presents temporal happiness but eventually ends in death and another seemingly narrow and difficult to travel which passes through suffering and death but eventually ushers in life.

Yet, how difficult it is to gaze into his eyes and listen to his words, for they penetrate and convict the soul. Who can bear this? It would be better to rid ourselves of him and continue living our lives unscathed. How little do we realize in that moment of conviction that we also are offered grace to be reborn; that all which is dead within; our sins, our suffering, our shame, our brokenness, can be overcome, and a new life given to us in Christ. But rejection is the easier path, the one most often traveled.

An innocent man, we condemn to death. The one who walked freely among us we bind; the one who reached out to the marginalized and down trodden we reject; the one who came to heal we beat; the one who is God we mock. Despised and rejected, bruised and bleeding, he remains silent and moves through us on his way to die, carrying the instrument of his death. He no longer resembles a man, for he was severely beaten for our sin. Thorns pierce his skull and the weight of the cross opens a severe wound on his shoulder. This is almost too much to bear and so he falls.

As he falls, his eyes catch yours and penetrate your soul. This disfigured man even now, seems to be tugging at your heart, beckoning you to believe in him and receive him. Somehow, you become lost in this moment, recognizing a peace you’ve never had, having somehow gazed on God’s mercy. What seemed like an eternity, is abruptly ended, as Jesus is whipped by the soldiers to continue. Amazingly, this beaten man finds the determination to press on towards his death. Somehow propelled by more than his human strength, this condemned man works himself through the jeering crowds who profane him, hurl insults at him and spit upon him.

Unknowingly, you continue to follow, drawn to this man who was once very popular, but now finds himself lower than a worm. He finally reaches the place where he will be crucified and, out of fear, you hide behind another, peeking out at what is happening. While his enemies continue taunting him, he is stripped and humiliated. The metal spikes are hammered through his flesh and he is lifted into the sky for all to gaze upon. Something happens within you. In this dark and evil place, a new thought begins to take hold of you. Even now, as Jesus approaches death, his words are not words of a condemned man. They are purposeful and selfless.

As you gaze upon this disfigured and tortured shell of a man quickly approaching death, you begin to recognize him. This is a person you have tried so hard to avoid; one who is despised and condemnable; a sort of person one hides their eyes from. You realize this is you. You have tried for so long and so hard to avoid looking within the depths of yourself; your condition. You have tried to appease what you would find with temporal happiness and have distracted yourself with busyness of life. But somehow, this innocent but condemned man has shown you what you have worked so successfully to avoid. Sin disfigures us. It binds us and torments us. It removes love and purpose from our lives, leaving us empty and unsatisfied; incomplete. It leads us towards death.

Yet as you gaze upon this condemned man, once again, yours and Jesus’ eyes meet. Again, you are moved, no longer seeing death and darkness, but rather a new hope. Somehow, you now understand, that you must follow Jesus in his death, that you might receive new life in him. You understand that he has taken your sin upon himself that he might sacrificially die for you. A new hope; a freedom you never had is taking hold of you. This person you’ve been too ashamed to reveal to others; with all its faults is still loved by God and worthy of redemption. For though marred and disfigured, the mark of God; the image of God persists within waiting to be set free. You have been offered the very gift of becoming God’s child by grace through faith. For just as Jesus died and rose again, so too, can we die to sin and receive new life in Christ.