Posted by: rcottrill | October 24, 2018

Looking in the Face of Jesus

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Words: Harry Dixon Clarke (b. Jan. 28, 1888; d. Oct. 14, 1957)
Music: Harry Dixon Clarke

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Harry Clarke)

Note: Harry Dudley Clarke was born in Wales. As a boy, he ran away from the orphanage where he was living, and worked at sea for almost a decade. Coming to live in America, he was involved in composing, music publishing, evangelism (as song leader for evangelist Billy Sunday) and later in pastoral ministry. Mr. Clarke also wrote the music for Avis Christiansen’s song, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

A person’s face has an important social function. Even apart from the words we speak, we communicate a great deal with our faces, especially our emotions. Love, happiness, sadness, anger, guilt, sincerity, fear, and more, are mirrored in the face.

It’s why there has been a debate about whether a Muslim woman who wears a veil (a niqab) in public should be required to remove it in court. One side argues covering her face with a veil is related to her religious beliefs–which she has the freedom to express. The opposing argument is that it’s difficult for the judge and lawyers to assess her credibility if they can’t see her facial expression when she speaks. The issue has yet to be fully resolved in Canada.

When we speak of a face-to-face meeting, we have something particular in mind. Those involved are in each other’s physical presence, and in each other’s sight. They’re directly connecting with each other, without mediation (i.e. not communicating through a go-between), and in close enough proximity to discern facial expressions.

A little more than two thousand years ago, multitudes of people saw the Lord Jesus Christ, and spoke with Him face to face. Though He has been pictured many times by artists, we actually have no certain idea what He looked like. There’s a long sheet of cloth kept in Turin, in northern Italy. Beginning in 1390, some have asserted “The Shroud of Turin” is the burial cloth of Jesus, and that the faint facial image imprinted on it is His. However, there have been many skeptics of this claim.

There are two remarkable instances in the biblical record when Christ’s face was of particular significance.

One is at His transfiguration, when the Lord briefly revealed Himself in His heavenly glory. The Bible says, “Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun” (Matt. 17:1-2). Years later, Peter refers to this when he says, “We…were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (II Pet. 1:16-18).

But a later scene contrasts starkly. After Jesus was arrested, and before He was crucified, He was cruelly tortured. God’s Word tells us, “Having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, ‘Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?’” (Lk. 22:64). “Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, ‘Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?” (Matt. 26:67-68).

In the first instance, the Lord revealed His glory, and God the Father spoke from heaven, saying, “‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’ And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid” (Matt. 17:5-6).

In the second scene, He was so abused that Isaiah says, prophesying centuries before, “His visage was marred [disfigured] more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men” (Isa. 52:14). And through this, and His crucifixion that followed, He gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin, for you and me. (I Cor. 15:3).

The thought of looking in the face of Jesus has been the theme of a number of our hymns. There’s Carrie Breck’s “Face to face with Christ my Saviour,” and Hortius Bonar’s lovely Communion hymn, “Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face.” And there’s Fanny Crosby’s song, Saved by Grace, with it’s refrain beginning, “And I shall see Him face to face.”

Mr. Clarkes’ song takes up this theme:

1) Looking in the face of Jesus,
Wondrous beauty there I see;
Tenderness divine abounding,
Purer love there could not be.

O, I want to be more like Him
So that others plainly see
Christ in all His wondrous beauty
Living on, His life in me.

3) Looking in the face of Jesus,
Hope and comfort there I see,
Giving me that blest assurance
That He will return for me.

On that day I shall be like Him
Clothed in immortality,
When I rise in His own likeness
Living on, His life in me.

1) In what way(s) have you reflected the character of Christ in the past week?

2) In what way(s) have you displayed just the opposite?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Harry Clarke)


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