The Radiance of Christ's Face

Look to Jesus. See glory.

The beauty of men
shall vanish in old age,
all former comeliness
is wiped away with grief.
The radiance of Christ’s face,
lovely before all things,
is more to be desired
than the frail flower of flesh.

  - Columbanus, Poem on the World’s Impermanence, Irish, 7th century[1]

Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword,
With Your hand from men, O L
From men of this world
who have their portion in this life,
And whose belly You fill with Your hidden treasure.
They are satisfied with children,
And leave the rest of their
possession for their babes.
As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

  - Psalm 17.13-15

The apostles Paul and John must have meditated long, hard, and with great satisfaction on the face of Jesus.

John had seen the Savior in the flesh, as well as in a powerful revelation while on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1). We’re not sure about Paul, although his mentioning to Timothy that Jesus dwells in “unapproachable light” surely recalls his experience on that Damascus road (1 Tim. 6.14-16).

And elsewhere it’s clear that Paul had some sense of the face of Jesus. He drew on the sustaining power of Christ in the depths of his heart, where he encountered the glory of God as he contemplated the face of the Lord (2 Cor. 4.6, 16-18).

So taken was John by the face of Jesus, that he eagerly longed for the day when he would see Him face to face (1 Jn. 3.2). When he finally did, the experience was overwhelming (Rev. 1.17). Yet even at that, John knew that greater radiance of glory is yet to come.

The apostles meant for us to believe that, in some manner, we, too, may see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, exalted and ruling at the Father’s right hand. We may be bathed in the refreshing comfort of His love, as we gaze with the eye of the heart at His glorious face. And we may know the transforming power of that radiance to kindle in our hearts greater love for our Lord, and a desire to be more like Him in every way (2 Cor. 3.12-18)

Is that your experience?

John’s account in Revelation 1 is a good place to begin in patching together an image of Jesus’ face. We can add other passages in the psalms, prophets, and gospels to gain a clearer portrait (cf. Pss. 2, 45, 47, 110; Dan. 7; Matt. 17.1-8; Rev. 14).

In a larger sense, all of Scripture, being about Jesus (Jn. 5.39), provides a glimpse not only of His face, but of His entire being, purpose, attributes, and plan – all of which add texture and splendor to the specific descriptions of His face provided in the Word.

Perhaps only the barest outline or image of the face of Jesus will emerge through your contemplation, yet it promises to thrill with a radiance that surpasses the greatest beauty our earthly lives have ever known.

Many today are consumed with the future of getting and spending. What’s to become of our economy? Our government? Our nation? Many people exhaust their intellectual energies worrying about whether their investments will hold up, their bank will fail, or our economy will simply tank. These are legitimate concerns, but they ought not be consuming ones.

Let us not give in to the pressure to fix our gaze only on things that can be seen. There is glory in the face of Jesus, glory that can lift us above our circumstances, revive us in the arena of God’s grace, fill us with hope and boldness, and lead us onto a plane of existence where righteousness, peace, and joy are the order of the day, regardless of our circumstances. Let the Word of God cast rays of Jesus’ glory on your mind and heart, so that you say with Columbanus that nothing could be more desirable than this.

Learn to meditate on the face of Jesus, for, when you do, you are looking into your own future, you are gazing on your eternal destiny – radiant with the glory of our risen and reigning Lord.

Psalm 11.1, 2, 7 (Tidings: O Zion, Haste, Your Mission High Fulfilling)
Jesus, my Lord, is my eternal refuge!
How can you say, “Friend, flee fast like a bird!
Haste to the hills! The wicked would destroy you!”?
Would you cast doubt on God and on His Word?
  Jesus is righteous, loving the just;
  All will behold His face who on His mercy trust.

I’m not good at imagining, Lord; but please help me to see You in Your glory, so that I may…

Thank the Lord with us!
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T. M. Moore, Principal
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1] Walker, p. 183.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore