Seeing Jesus – Part 4 – Not Whether, but What?

I can imagine that, for some of us, the idea of “seeing Jesus” is either too abstract or esoteric, or too close to idolatry to explore. We feel a little iffy thinking about Jesus, trying to envision Him seated in glory and upholding the cosmos by His powerful Word. What does that look like? Should we be looking? Is it even possible?

The great Puritan theologian John Owen addressed this question in his book Christologia. Owen observed that everyone holds in mind some image of Jesus, which begins to present itself each time His Name is mentioned or He is approached in worship or prayer. Owen wrote, “Every [believer] hath the idea or image of Christ in his mind, in the eye of faith, as it is represented unto him in the glass of the Gospel…We behold His glory ‘in a glass,’ which implants the image of it on our minds.”

This, Owen insisted, is a very good thing, because “hereby the mind is transformed into the same image, made like unto Christ so represented unto us—which is the conformity we speak of. Hence every true believer hath his heart under the conduct of an habitual inclination and desire to be like unto Christ” (Christologia).

So the question is not whether we can or should endeavor to see Jesus, but what do we see when we think on Him?

Owen made this claim in the light of the fact that, in so many places in Scripture, we are encouraged to “see” Jesus in a particular way. See Him ascending to God and receiving His Kingdom (Dan. 7.9-14). See Him seated in glory as the Father puts all His enemies under His feet (Pss. 47, 110). See Him robed in glory, holding a scepter of uprightness, radiant above all men or creatures (Ps. 45; cf. Heb. 1.8, 9). See Him riding out, conquering and to conquer, on the white battle horse of His Church, empowered with the purity of the Holy Spirit (Rev. 6.2). See Him, so majestic and powerful and overwhelming in holiness and truth that the very sight of Him drove the apostle John faceward to the ground (Rev. 1.9-20)? See Him in a thousand other allusions, types, symbols, theophanies, and prophecies spread abundantly throughout the Scriptures. See Him in all these ways, and you will not be able not to see Him.

The challenge is to see Him as clearly, compellingly, closely, and consistently as we can, so that we can say with David, “I have set the LORD always before me” (Ps. 16.8), and that will be manifestly so.

What is God’s intent in giving us this lavish display of Jesus which the Scriptures spread before us from cover to cover? I can think of three purposes.

First is to instruct us how we ought to think about the Lord, since thinking about Him is inevitable. Paul seemed to have this in mind when he commanded us to set our mind above, where Christ is seated in heavenly places (Col. 3.1-3). There are right ways and wrong ways of seeing Jesus. Too often, the images of Jesus created for instructional purposes in Sunday schools and children’s Bibles are reductive. They try to represent Him as true man, but in doing so they obscure His majestic greatness, glory, and might. The challenge is to get our minds around as full and complete an image of Jesus as is possible by studying and meditating on the representations of our Lord to be found throughout His Word. For this we will need a curious, lively, and resolute mind, set on the things that are above where Christ is.

Second, God hopes to inspire us to greater love for Jesus, more profound and expansive wonder at His greatness, and an abiding hunger of soul to increase continuously in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. That is, God seeks to engage our heart, the seat of our affections, to excite and swell it so that our most powerful and moving affections—desire, longing, thrill, hope, and love, for example—are all bound up and flourishing in what we see of Jesus in His Word. The heart is the driving force of the soul, and God seeks to fuel-inject our hearts with the many glorious descriptions of Christ found in His Word.

Finally, God seeks to invest us with grace, the grace that not only soothes and comforts us but which moves us to action in the power of the Holy Spirit. To see Jesus in His glory, surrounded by adoring saints and angels, radiant in beauty and splendor, high above and exalted yet right at hand and with us always—to see Jesus this way is to want to follow Him wherever and however He might lead. God uses the revelation of Jesus—both in His Word and His world—to instruct and inspire us for loving and serving Him, and to invest us with spiritual power to stretch and move our will to actions beyond anything we’ve ever dared to ask or think.

So see Jesus. See Him today. Spend some time meditating on one of the passages I mentioned, asking the Lord to instruct, inspire and invest you with Jesus, more and more of Him for every aspect of your life.

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