For a couple years now, smartphone users have gotten accustomed to facial recognition software – we unlock our phone with a quick glance at our device. How does it work? Essentially, a beam of infrared light containing 30,000 dots captures a depth map of the user’s face, and then translates it into a 2D, mathematical representation of your face, which then serves as the “master key” going forward. Literally, your unique, unlike-any-other face unlocks your phone’s capabilities; yes, you can even pay for something at the store with this facial ID software – leave the wallet at home, just flash your face and that latte is yours.
If our face can do all that, what can the face of Jesus do? Does his face unlock anything? Give us access to anything? What’s the Bible say about Jesus’ face?
Look closely at 2 Corinthians 4:6: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” It’s not a perfect life, church attendance, or even knowledge about Jesus that shines forth “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God,” but only Jesus’ face. Do we ever take the time to get personal with our Savior and look at his face? It’s impossible to really know someone without ever looking at their face.
We’re told in Isaiah 52:14, a prophesy about Jesus, that “his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind…” Why was Jesus’ face like that? In chapter 53, verse 5, we find the answer: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Upon the cross, with his bloody and beaten face, even in this beyond-all-recognition state, the glorious knowledge of God radiated from him because as “he bore the sin of many,” (53:12) he was demonstrating, in flesh and blood, God’s love, mercy and compassion for us.
It’s challenging to look at such a disfigured face, especially because it’s our sins that put Jesus in such a position, but we must. How else will we obtain “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God?” Isaiah 53:3 says Jesus wasn’t esteemed, that people hid their faces from him and despised him. Will we be those people today? Will we be so impersonal with Jesus today and refuse to look him in the face? Contentment to simply know facts about Jesus will not unlock the glorious light of God – we must get face to face with Jesus.
The payoff to getting up close and personal with Jesus is we’ll see more than a marred face, we’ll see his resurrected, death-conquering face, which according to Revelation 1:16 is “like the sun shining in full strength.” Staring into the sun cannot leave us unchanged, no, Psalm 34:5 states, “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” Jesus’ face, unique and special to only him, unlocks a joyful life where shame can no longer touch us.
The world wants us to gaze into the mirror each morning, look ourselves in the face and declare, of our own power, “You’re beautiful.” Scripture tells us to look into the face of Jesus and let God’s glorious light shine on us – and that’s what makes us beautiful.