The Face of Jesus Christ
May 28th, 1967 @ 8:15 AM
2 Corinthians 4:6
THE FACE OF JESUS CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 4:6
5-28-67 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Face of Jesus Christ. Some time ago, I preached a sermon on the beautiful and meaningful verse in 2 Corinthians 4, verse 6. And the sermon was entitled The Knowledge of the Glory of God. Now this message is prepared on the last part of that beautiful verse in The Face of Jesus Christ. Second Corinthians 4:6, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." The sermon before, The Knowledge of the Glory of God, and this message, The Face of Jesus Christ.
It is a strange thing that there is no description of the Lord in His Holy Word. How He looked, even His stature, even the color of His hair, there is no word in divine revelation concerning how our Lord actually looked. That is a part of the whole revelation of God. There are some things that language cannot describe, so I shall not seek to describe it, but it is a spiritual reality. It is something that all of us envisage. We have feelings, impressions. What does God look like? What did Jesus look like? Having therefore no actual delineation, description, we have these spiritual responses, and all of us feel them; The Face of Jesus Christ.
An artist one time was painting a picture of the Lord’s Supper, and in the drawing he had depicted the cup in the hand of the Savior. And he drew the cup gorgeously, beautifully, impressively. When he unveiled his painting the people came by and without exception they saw that beautiful chalice, jeweled, impressive. And as the artist listened to their comments, it was always that beautiful cup the Lord had held in His hand. After the showing of his painting was over, he took a brush with paint and daubed it out, covered it over, for he said, "They never saw the face of my Lord. All they saw was that chalice. It’s not a chalice, it’s not a cup I’m trying to paint; it’s the Lord! It’s the face of Jesus Christ."
In the Riverside Church in New York City there are three of Hofmann’s incomparable paintings; one is his painting of Christ in Gethsemane [Matthew 26:36-46]. That is that beautiful stained glass window there at the back of our auditorium, the original is in that church. There’s another original in that church by Hofmann, it is the picture of the rich young ruler and Jesus offering him eternal life if he will trade the world for the Savior. And Hofmann pictures there the young man in the act of turning away [Mark 10:17-22]. The third picture by Hofmann in that church is a picture of Christ in the temple when he was twelve years of age [Luke 2:41-50]. All three of these we have seen all of our lives.
So as I talked to the man there in the church about the paintings, when I talked to him about the painting of Christ in the temple, I asked him, "Is this also a Hofmann original like the other two?" He said, "It’s a Hofmann painting, but it is not a Hofmann original." "Well," I said, "that’s unusual. What do you mean?" He said, "The pupils of the great artist copying the artist’s original, the pupils of the great artist, his students, painted the picture, all the background, the temple, the doctors of the law, and the twelve year old Christ child standing in the midst. But," he said, "the students could not paint the face of the Lord. And finally in despair, they turned to the old master and said, ‘We cannot paint His face, all of the rest we can paint, but we cannot paint His face.’ So," the man said to me, "the old master painted the face of the Christ child, and that’s the picture you see before you now."
"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" [2 Corinthians 4:6]. Now the background of the text lies in the story in Exodus 33 and 34. And Paul has mentioned it and discussed it here in the previous chapter [2 Corinthians 3:13]. What happened in the life of Moses was, when he went on top of the mount and spoke to the Lord face to face, when he came down from the mountain his face shined. Shined with the glory of God, reflected the presence into which he had been standing forty days, forty nights [Exodus 34:28-30]. So the story reads in Exodus, when the children of Israel could not look upon the glory of the shining of God in the face of the great lawgiver, that he put a veil over his face [Exodus 34:33-35]. Now, Paul writes that Moses put the veil over his face that the children of Israel should not look steadfastly to the end of that which is abolished, for the glory that shined in the face of Moses was temporary and it faded away [2 Corinthians 3:13]. Then he uses that as an illustration of the glory of God that shines in the face of Jesus Christ that never fades away [2 Corinthians 4:6].
Eternal and timeless is the revelation of God in the face of our Savior. We could conceive of the mountains and of the hills dissolving away. We could conceive of the rivers emptying themselves out of sheer exhaustion. We can conceive of the light of the stars fading away, growing old like a garment, waxing dim like a candle spent. We could even conceive of our sun burning out, turning to ashes and cinders. But who could conceive of the light of God fading from the face of Jesus Christ; timeless, eternal, beyond the sun and the stars, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
The stars shine over the land,
The stars shine over the sea,
The stars look down on you,
The stars look down on me.
The stars have shined a million years,
A million years and a day,
But Christ and we shall live and love,
When the stars have faded away.
"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" [2 Corinthians 4:6]. Now I’m going to follow that through in the life of our Lord and in His glorious appearing. First, the glory of God seen in the face of Jesus Christ in His transfiguration. What the Bible says is just one thing and that is that "His face shined," His countenance was as the brightness "of the sun" in His strength [Matthew 17:2]. It’s hard for us to conceive of it, but thrice, thrice is that said.
One time on the Mount of Transfiguration when Peter, James, and John were taken with our Lord for an all night prayer meeting, and there on top of the glorious mountain, our Lord was transfigured and the light of deity shined through [Matthew 17:1-2].
A second time was when the blaspheming Saul of Tarsus was on the road to Damascus to hale into prison those who called upon His name. And breathing out threatening and slaughter as he neared the city there appeared to him Jesus of Nazareth. And the Book says that His appearance was as the sun, above the brightness of the sun. And in the light of that glory Saul was blinded and fell down to the ground [Acts 9:1-4]; the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 4:6].
A third time that it is presented is in the Revelation, that incomparable picture of our glorified Lord, His eyes as a flame of fire, and His feet as if it was burning brass [Revelation 2:18]. And His face: and here again, "As the sun shineth in His strength, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, transfigured bright like the sun."
But also, glorious in redeeming love. Would you not have light? Oh! Just think of it, to have seen our Lord as mothers placed in His arms their little children and He blessed them [Mark 10:13, 16], or the face of our Lord as He bent over someone who was sick [Matthew 8:16], or crippled and healed them [Matthew 9:1-6], or the tears of our Lord streaming down from His face as He wept over Jerusalem [Luke 19:41], or as He wept at the tomb of Lazarus [John 11:35]; the face of Jesus Christ in redeeming love.
If an angel were to say to me, "I will give thee a choice, any moment anywhere in ancient history, any personality you may see it." Ah, the things that come to my mind! Imagine, looking upon Socrates as he taught young Plato, or imagine seeing Plato as he taught young Aristotle, or imagine seeing Aristotle as he taught young Alexander, to be known as "the Great," for wherever Alexander went on his conquest, he took his old teacher Aristotle with him. They made the civilized world Greek. Just imagine seeing that. Or just think of standing in the presence of Demosthenes and listening to his Philippics, that is, his orations against Philip of Macedon. Or think of standing in the Roman senate and listening to Cicero as he denounces Catiline. Or think of standing by the side of Julius Caesar in his conquest of Gaul, or Scipio over Hannibal.
Oh! How many things tremendous, destiny determinating, could your mind conjure up and you say to the angel, "If I could go back into those ancient days, let me see, say, Nebuchadnezzar, standing on the top of his glorious palace and looking at the seventh wonder of the world, the Hanging Gardens, and saying, ‘Is not this great Babylon that I have built with the power and might of my majesty?’" [Daniel 4:30]
Dear people, to me it is nothing – Nebuchadnezzar in his glory, or Scipio in his triumph, or Demosthenes and his Philippics – nothing compares with just the sight of the lowly Jesus bending over in blessing a little child [Matthew 19:13], or opening the eyes of a man born blind [John 9:1-7]. "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" [2 Corinthians 4:6].
Nor do I think that that glory was obliterated even in His humiliation. There is a passage in Isaiah that speaks of the face of our Lord in His shame and suffering. We all know of the fifty-third chapter. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." [Isaiah 53:6]
But the fifty-second chapter begins that presentation of our suffering Lord. And next to the last verse it says, "His visage, His face, His countenance was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men" [Isaiah 52:14]. Then it continues the description. "He was despised and rejected" [Isaiah 53:3]. "He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him [Isaiah 53:2]. "We hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not" [Isaiah 53:3]. "His visage, His countenance, His face, was so marred more than any man" [Isaiah 52:14].
What is that? It is very evident; it is very plain and unthinkable to us. When He was arrested by the Jewish people, leaders, and He was taken before Annas [John 18:13], and then before Caiaphas [John 18:24], and then before the Sanhedrin [John 18:28-40], He was insulted and despised and put to shame. Some of the men took the back of their hands and slapped Him, and said, "So you are a prophet?" Slap. "Now tell me my name. Who is it that hits you?" [Luke 22:64]. And slapped Him again. And others came from the other side. "I hear you are a prophet; is that so?" Slapped Him. "What’s my name? Tell me who hits you?" [Matthew 26:68]. And slapped Him again. And others came and seized Him by the beard and plucked it out [Isaiah 50:6]. You might well imagine the bloodiness of His face where they took His beard and plucked it out. And to add insult and filth they spit upon Him, His face dripping with blood mingled with spit [Matthew 26:67-68].
"Then when the soldiers took Him they hit Him on the head with reeds and they scourged Him," with scorpions made with leather and lead. Then in mockery they put a cast-off purple robe over His shoulders, and pressed on His brow a crown of thorns and a mock scepter in His hand, and bowed down in contempt before Him, "Hail, King of the Jews" [Matthew. 27:27-29]. "His visage was so marred more than any man" [Isaiah 52:14]. Yet the Book says that the heart of the gospel is its redemptive sacrifice [Hebrews 9:14-15]; that we see and know the love of God for us more in the agony and suffering and death of our Lord than in any other revelation. "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" [2 Corinthians 4:6], even in His agony and humiliation.
Now the last, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in His triumphant and consummating presence, in His glorious appearing. Look. A thousand times, a thousand times have I wondered at that verse, the text of the Revelation, which is Revelation 1:7, "Behold, behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him: and the tribes of the earth shall wail because of Him." Isn’t it an amazing thing, an astonishing thing? That in that text, which is the text of the Revelation – like a man will take a sermon as I have this morning and preach on it, so John took a text and around it he wove the visions of the Revelation. The text of the Apocalypse is Revelation 1:7, "Behold, He cometh with clouds," and then that word "every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him." Out of the millions and millions and billions who shall see our Lord in His glorious coming, John chooses and picks out a little handful, and especially mentions them. "He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him" [Revelation 1:7].
Could I be forgiven if I think there is in that something of the human on the part of the apostle John? He was the one who followed the Lord into the presence of Annas [John 18:13], and into the court and the judgment hall of Caiaphas [John 18:24] and stayed by Him through the mockery of the Roman soldiers [Luke 23:36]. And was there to receive from His dying lips the charge to keep His mother [John 19:26-27]; and John never got away from those awful hours. He stood there and watched those men slap His face and say, "So you are a prophet; who hit You?" [Luke 22:64]. He stood there and saw them pluck out His beard. He saw them press on His brow the crown of thorns and scourge him [Matthew 27:26-30]. And he saw them drive the nails through His hands and feet [John 19:16-18], and ultimately thrust that spear into His side [John 19:34]. And that’s why I think there’s something of the human, when John wrote that verse and chose that text [Revelation 1:7]. Some day these who beat our Lord, and smote our Lord, and pulled out His beard, and spit on Him, and crucified Him; someday they shall be forced to confront the Lord Jesus Christ, only this time not in humility but in judgment and in infinite power. And you will find that repeated again and again in the Revelation:
And when they opened the sixth seal,,
The heavens rolled back as a scroll when it is rolled together . . .
And the great men of the earth, and the wicked men, and the vile men, and the rejecters and the unbelievers,
shall cry for the rocks and the mountains to,
fall upon them, and to hide them from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.
For the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?
And in the great white throne judgment, sitting there as the Judge of all of the earth and of all creation, from His face the very heavens and earth shall flee away [Rev. 20:11], the countenance, the face of Jesus Christ.
But that’s not for us, that’s for these who did despite to the Spirit of grace, who trample underfoot the blood of the covenant, who say no to His overtures of mercy [Hebrews 10:29]. But to us, but to us, that blessed face is one of hope, and assurance, and blessing, and comfort, and promise, and glory forever – to us.
It’s like this. I shared a service here in this church with a Marine chaplain who had come with one of our American boys who had fallen in Korea, buried here in Dallas, belonged to this church. And they sent a Marine chaplain with the body of the fallen soldier, and we shared the service together. I’ll never forget that as long as I live. What that chaplain did was this, he handed out to each one present, a little folder. On the inside were words that he had written about the boy, the order of service. On the outside of the folder was a picture and his message was on that picture. In the background, in the background, war, guns, bombs, carnage, and in the foreground is an American soldier, hit, mortally wounded, and falling down on the ground. And as the soldier falls he lifts up his face, and there is the picture of Jesus Christ. Could such a thing be? Could it be?
I was moved one time by a preacher who belonged to this church, who long time ago said:
One of the members of this congregation said to his wife, "Wife, come here. Come here." He said, "Dear wife, walk over there to that side of the room." She walked on that side. "Now, honey, walk to this side of the room." And she walked to this side. He said, "Go to that door there." And she went to that door. Then he said, "Come here; walk over here by me." And she walked over there by him. And she said, "Husband, what is this?" He said, "Dear wife, I just wanted to be sure that I’m in my right mind. So I wanted you to walk there and there and there and here. Dear wife," he said, "I saw the face of Jesus my Lord. I saw it. I looked upon it. And I just wanted to be sure that I was not delirious or fevered, but was in my right mind. I saw Him; I looked upon His face."
Oh! This is our covenant, and our assurance, our hope, and our final and precious blessing. It is Jesus who awaits us. It is our Savior who beckons us. How precious that beautiful song:
No need for the sun in heaven we’re told,
The light of the world is Jesus.
For the Lamb is the light in the city of gold,
The light of the world is Jesus.
Oh come to the light, ’tis shining for thee;
Sweetly the light has dawned upon me.
Once I was blind, but now I can see:
The light of the world is Jesus.
["The Light of the World is Jesus," Phillip P. Bliss]
"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" [2 Corinthians 4:6].
While we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you give himself to the Lord. A family you, coming into the fellowship of the church; a couple, a youth, a child, one somebody you, while we sing our song you come and stand by me. "Pastor, today I open my heart; I want Jesus to come in. I take Him today as my Savior and Lord, and here I come." Do it now; do it now; on the first note of the first stanza, come now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE FACE OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 4:6
A. A true vision of the Lord (John 1:14, 2 Corinthians 4:6)
B. The painter’s chalice
C. The Hofmann paintings
II. The context
A. Paul mentions the face of Moses after he communed with God(Exodus 34:29)
B. But Moses covered his face, that the people might not see the fading glory
C. The glory in the face of our Lord never passes away
III. Glorious in transfiguration
A. On the mount as He prayed (Matthew 17:1-2, Luke 9:29)
B. To Saul on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-4)
C. To John on the isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:12-17)
IV. Glorious in redemptive love
A. In His sympathetic and compassionate ministries
B. Blessing children, healing the sick, raising the dead
V. Glorious even in humiliation(Isaiah 52:14, 53:2-3, 6)
A. Spit in His face, plucked out His beard, crowned Him with thorns
A. Parousia – literally "the presence"(Revelation 1:7)
1. Those who crucified Him will see Him (Revelation 6:15-17)
B. Upon his throne (Revelation 20:11)
C. Funeral for fallen Marine in Korean War
D. Dying man asks wife to walk through the room to verify he had not lost his senses – he had seen the face of Jesus
E. Poem, "The Light of the World is Jesus"