Have you ever wished that there were instant cameras, cam recorders and cell phones back in the days of Jesus? We could have seen pictures of the angel choir and the baby Jesus lying in the manger. We could have had pictures of him taken throughout his life. Can you imagine the disciples taking pictures of him? They could have taken pictures of Jesus so that we could see him in action. We could have seen Him feeding the 5000, walking on the water and raising Lazarus from the dead. We could have seen what He looked like. We could have seen the compassion on his face as he healed people. We could have seen him chasing the money changers out of the temple. We could have discovered how closely Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper was to the actual event. Unfortunately the disciples did not have cameras. Alas, photography came 1800 plus years too late. But we do have two pictures of Jesus in the Bible. The first is found in the Suffering Servant passages in Isaiah 52-53. The second picture is seen in the transfiguration accounts found in the Gospels. Although they show contrasting images, they have one element in common. In both accounts, Jesus cannot be looked upon.
In the Isaiah passages, Jesus is depicted as being so hideous that people can not stand to look at Him. A mere glance is enough to cause them to turn away and hide their faces. His visage is so marred that he hardly even looks human. The suffering he experienced was so horrible that it greatly affected his human features. Isaiah says that he was “like one from whom men hide their faces” (Isa. 53:3). Read Isa. 52:14 – 53:12 to see this entire picture.
In the accounts of the transfiguration, Jesus is pictured as being dazzlingly brilliant. Matthew says “His face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light” (Matt. 17:2). Luke adds that his clothes were as bright as a flash of lightning. The beauty and brilliance of the Lord of glory was more than the disciples could bear and they had to hide their faces. It was impossible to gaze upon his glorified radiance. He was just too brilliant.
In both the Suffering Servant passages in Isaiah and in the three accounts of the transfiguration found in the gospels the result is the same – it is impossible to look upon him. In the former it is because of his hideousness. One’s natural reaction is to turn away. He is just too hideous. In the transfiguration it is because of his immense beauty. He is pictured as being brilliant. Just like we have to turn away from the brilliance of the sun or a flash of lightning, the disciples had to turn away from gazing at the transfigured Jesus. In his transfigured state, he was too much for them to gaze upon.
Two very contrasting pictures, with such strikingly similar results! In them we see the extent of God’s great love for us. Jesus was willing to exchange his position as the Lord of glory for that of a human being. He willingly gave up his position in heaven to come to earth, to suffer and die a cruel death on the cross. He exchanged the glory of heaven for the brokenness of earth. In the contrast of these two pictures with such similar results we see how much Jesus’ love for us cost Him. Have you seen this picture of God’s great love for you yet?